June 11, 2002, 12:00 AM

Not all online retail categories are created equal, says new Abacus report

Products that cater to younger, more affluent, outdoor/leisure oriented audiences have been influenced the most by web sales, Abacus Market Research’s Spring Catalog Industry Trend Report says.

Products that cater to younger, more affluent, outdoor/leisure oriented audiences have been influenced the most by web sales, Broomfield, CO-based Abacus Market Research, a direct marketing research division of DoubleClick Inc., reported today in its Spring Catalog Industry Trend Report.

While online sales for multi-channel merchants who have a catalog and a web site increased from 10% of all sales in Q1 2000 to 26% in Q4 2001, some categories of products exceeded that percentage.

The following categories had the highest percentage of sales from the online channel in 2001, according to Abacus:
-- Recreational and outdoor equipment: 41%
-- High-ticket apparel for men and women: 36%
-- Auto parts and accessories: 29%
-- Teen apparel and shoes: 28%
-- Hunting and fishing: 28%.

The categories with lower than average percentage of sales occurring on the web were:
-- Vitamins and supplements: 7%
-- Senior living: 7%
-- Low-ticket men’s apparel: 8%
-- Low-ticket beauty: 10%

Online sales increased 47% in dollar volume from 2000 to 2001, while, catalog sales were flat, Abacus also reported. Online and catalog sales combined increased 8.1% in 2001. That growth was up from 5.6% in 2000. "Retailers expected to see a plateau for direct sales," Brian Rainey, president of Abacus, tells InternetRetailer.com. "But I don`t think we`ve reached that yet."

9% of catalog shoppers made online purchases in 2001, up from 7% in 2000. Meanwhile, 10% of all retail buyers made online purchases, up from 7.3% in 2000.

The increase in multi-channel marketing, in particular the channel shift among shoppers, represents the biggest impact for the catalog industry, says Rainey. He emphasizes that it`s imperative for catalogers to view results in all channels because catalogs are a driver for online purchases.

Abacus also reports that consumers take advantage of the immediacy of the web for their holiday shopping: Catalog sales peak in November with 11% of annual sales occurring in that month, while online sales peak in December with 13% of annual sales.

"We are seeing that multi-channel marketers have rapidly adopted a channel shift in their business which has important implications on how staffing and inventory control decisions are made, and demonstrates that catalogers require a complete understanding of the interaction of all their channels to achieve success," Rainey says.

The Trend Report is compiled from the Abacus Alliance database which consists of transactional information from 1,800 clients containing 3.91 billion transactions from 90 million U.S. households. Abacus published the report twice a year, in the spring and fall.

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