December 20, 2004, 12:00 AM

Online sales continue strong growth through mid December

As Christmas approaches, a number of researchers are reporting robust online sales, up 26-28%, and record sales days. The NRF says there’s still a significant amount of shopping to be done.

 

As Christmas approaches, a number of researchers are reporting robust online sales. And the NRF says there’s still a significant amount of shopping to be done.

ComScore Networks Inc. reports that online sales last Monday through Friday (Dec. 13-17) increased 49% over the same period last year, reaching $2.03 billion. Online sales for November and December so far have reached $13.1 billion, up 26% vs. a year ago. $400-million days are becoming common, with every weekday last week reaching or exceeding that level with the same true for the prior week. Before this year, daily online sales had reached $400 million only once.

The Holiday eSpending report from Goldman, Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive, and Nielsen/NetRatings shows that online shoppers in the U.S. have spent $16.7 billion during the first six weeks of the 2004 holiday season, up 28% from the $13 billion spent online during the same time in 2003.

Music was the fastest growing category year-over-year in revenue during the first six weeks of the 2004 holiday season, up 33%, says the eSpending Report. Video/DVD and jewelry categories tied for second place, up 32% each. Rounding out the top five fastest growing categories were books, up 27% and toys/video games up 22%. The eSpending report is based on weekly surveys of more than 1,000 respondents.

“Jewelry has turned out to be a strong category online with substantial growth in sales this season,” says Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. “As the online buying population matures, there is increased confidence and comfort in purchasing non-commoditized goods online, which has provided retailers with the opportunity to sell a wide variety of product categories and price points.”

Consumers are also waiting later than in prior years to shop online, if Overstock.com Inc.’s experience is an indication. Overstock reports that last Thursday-Dec. 16-was its peak shopping day of this year, a whole week later than previous years.

"Sales historically peak around Dec. 10 and taper off from there,” says Patrick Byrne, president of Overstock.com. “This year we organized our supply chain to cater to last-minute shoppers and have been communicating that fact to consumers. The fact that business has continued to swell so late in the month suggests to me that last-minute shoppers, who have traditionally flocked to the malls in the last days before Christmas, are increasingly going online.”

Overstock is offering delivery by Christmas for $1 on orders placed by noon Mountain time tomorrow.

Consumers have completed 82% of their Christmas shopping, according to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch. Consumers have spent an average of $511.77 on the holidays this year. Because this is the first year for the survey, comparable numbers from a year ago are not available.

As of yesterday, 12 million consumers still had not started their holiday shopping, the NRF reports. 73 million consumers were completely finished and another 75 million had completed more than three-fourths of their shopping.

"Though a large percentage of shopping has been completed, many sales have not been recorded due to heavy purchasing of gift cards, which are not recorded until merchandise is redeemed," says Phil Rist, vice president of BIGresearch. "Most consumers will have their shopping completed by Christmas Day, but will head out after Christmas to take advantage of discounted merchandise and spend gift cards."

NRF continues to project that November and December sales will increase 4.5% this year to $219.9 billion. BIGresearch polled 2,576 consumers from Dec. 17-19.

 

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