Online retailers in the US saw Christmas sales jump 29 percent -- from US$9.08 billion last Christmas to US$11.72 billion for the same season in 2003.
Market research firm ComScore, which follows 1.5 million Internet users' spending activities, said online retail spending 1 November to 26 December 2003 reached US$950 million compared to US$670 million a year ago -- an increase of 43 percent.
Those figures did not include online travel or auction statistics, ComScore said.
Graham Mudd, a ComScore networks analyst, said many online shoppers had turned to the internet to avoid crowds and bad weather. 'Snow storms definitely influenced online sales ... Online sales were over the average on the weekend of a big snowstorm,' he said.
Mudd said catalogue companies often initially did well selling online since they already knew how to sell when buyers couldn't see or touch the products on offer.
Yet sales were shifting to the internet from other retail outlets, including mail-order catalogue firms.
'Categories such as gift certificates and flowers were standouts, thanks to the ability to send such gifts purely online or with same-day delivery,' said Dan Hess, ComScore senior vice-president.
New online shopping categories included furniture, home and garden, jewellery and watches. IT-based media -- including DVDs, CDs and computer software -- had also moved well online.
Research firms Goldman, Sachs & Co, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings said in a recent 'e-spending' report that online shoppers in the US this year spent US$13 billion, a 46 percent increase on last year.
That report excluded data on online auctions, such as eBay, but said product categories for apparel, videos, DVD, consumer electronics, toys, video games and books were popular.
The report said online clothing sales were up 35 percent and book sales 33 percent while consumer electronics went up 12 percent, hitting US $1.4 billion. Toys and games rose 27 percent in six weeks.
US department store Wal-Mart fought a price war against toy retailers that had both online and bricks and mortar stores, the report claimed.
Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research at Harris Interactive, said online sales were affecting other retailers.
'The increased reliance on internet retailers is having a noticeable impact on traditional retail outlets. With extended shipping deadlines from online retailers, we expect this trend to continue as people want to avoid the late shopping crowds,' Iventosch-James said.
Nielsen/NetRatings' senior analyst Abha Bhagat said online retailing was not a disruptive approach but simply another mainstream channel whereby retailers reached out to potential customers.
Another online retailer, Amazon.com, said it had also experienced a year-end sales boom, logging a holiday sales total of 2.1 million items -- one sale every 24 seconds.
Issue: 315 | May 2013
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