February 14, 2005, 12:00 AM

Valentine’s-related sites peak earlier this year than last

Online shoppers came to flowers and gifts sites for Valentine’s Day giving earlier this year than last, reports web traffic measurement company Hitwise.

Online shoppers came to flowers and gifts sites for Valentine’s Day giving earlier this year than last, reports web traffic measurement company Hitwise. Last Thursday, traffic to such sites was 81% higher than on the same date last year, Hitwise says.

The share of all Internet traffic visiting several categories of Valentine’s Day-related sites increased significantly the week ending Feb. 5 versus the prior week:

• Flowers & Gifts up 107.5%
• Chocolate & Food sites up 46.4%
• Jewelry up 17.3%
• Lingerie up 7.7%

“Traffic to flowers and gifts sites are poised to exceed last year’s levels as Valentine’s Day e-commerce goes mainstream,” said Bill Tancer, vice president of research, Hitwise. “A number of factors are driving this trend, including natural growth of the category as well as a growing number of online flowers and gift stores.”

From 256 flowers and gifts sites in the Hitwise category this time last year, there are now are 450.

Nielsen/NetRatings reports that Proflowers.com was the fastest growing gift and flowers destination in the week ending Feb. 6, up 156% with 387,000 visitors. FTD.com grew 106% with 336,000 visitors, and 1-800-flowers.com was up 91% with 947,000 visitors.

“Online florists strategically offered shoppers special discounts for early orders and sweepstakes to maximize customer acquisition opportunities for the biggest day in flower sales,” said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst, Nielsen/NetRatings.

While they typically peak on Valentine’s Day as procrastinators take advantage of immediate delivery, greeting card sites jumped last week also, Nielsen/NetRatings reports. AmericanGreetings.com attracted 869,000 visitors, up 30% from the previous week. Blue Mountain was up 32% to 380,000 visitors. 123greetings.com was up 10% to 298,000 visitors.

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