January 19, 2001, 12:00 AM

Online holiday shopping off to a slow start, says Nielsen/NetRatings

Compared to last year, the 2000 online holiday shopping season is off to a slow start, says Nielsen/NetRatings. There was no growth the first week of November over the previous week, Nielsen//NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index reported. By contrast, online holiday shopping started the first week in November last year. The index measures home and work Internet user visits to representative e-commerce sites in ten categories. According to the survey, the consumer electronics category led last year's growth with a 56% boost in unique visitors at home. This year the category rose a much more modest 16%. Toys and games leapt 47% last year while remaining flat this season. Computer hardware sites attracted 19% more traffic last year while dipping nearly 7% this year. Apparel sites drew 13% more shoppers in 1999 while engaging only 9% more visitors in 2000. The books/music/video category grew nearly 13% last year, but increased 5% this year. The specialty gifts category was the only one to reverse the trend with 1% growth last year and more than 12% this year. "Last year's holiday shopping season began with a big bang right after people put away their Halloween costumes,'' said Sean Kaldor, vice president of eCommerce at NetRatings. "This year we are not seeing the same trends, suggesting that other factors took the focus off the impending holidays, such as less dot com advertising or interest in the Presidential election.''

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