March 29, 2001, 12:00 AM

Online spending hits $3.4 billion In February

According to the 14th survey in this monthly series, total spending on online sales increased from $3 billion in January to $3.4 billion in February.

Total online retail spending increased from $3 billion in January to $3.4 billion in February, says The National Retail Federation and Forrester Research Inc., in conjunction with Greenfield Online. According to the 14th monthly NRF/Forrester Online Retail Index, the number of households shopping online increased to 13.5 million in February from 13.3 million in January. Consumers spent an average of $248 per person in February, compared with $229 in January.

Appliances experienced the largest increase, growing from $24 million in January to $44 million in February. Jewelry and flowers also rose by nearly 70% -- from $99 million in January to more than $166 million in February. Online furniture sales also increased significantly -- from $26 million in January to $43 million in February. Among the categories that experienced a decrease in online sales were videos, office supplies, and toys and video games. Video sales fell to $52 million in February, from $83 million in January. Office supplies dipped 21% to $69 million in February, and toys and video games dropped 31% to $86 million in February.

"In light of the economic slowdown, we are pleased to see that the Internet continues to thrive as a consumer shopping channel," said James L. McQuivey, research director at Forrester. "It`s also reassuring to see the Valentine`s Day love fires stir a 40% jump in online jewelry sales in February. Over time, the Index will expose more valuable trends like this in online consumer spending, providing retail marketers with a stronger understanding of consumer behavior."

"Physical retailers were challenged in February by, among other things, bad weather in many parts of the country, which kept many consumers house-bound," said NRF President Tracy Mullin. "The online figures show strength in the very areas where physical stores were weakest last month, strongly suggesting that consumers embraced the multichannel approach in February to meet their buying demands."

The monthly panel is weighted to Forrester Research`s Benchmark Panel, which surveyed nearly 90,000 US and Canadian members of a consumer mail panel developed by NPD Group, a market research firm. Data was weighted to demographically represent the North American population. The Benchmark Panel was fielded from late November 1999 to February 2000.

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