October 3, 2013, 9:17 AM

E-retail could jump 15% this holiday season

Shop.org estimates that U.S. online consumers will spend up to $82 billion this year.

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E-retail sales in the United States this holiday season will increase between 13% and 15% compared with last year, says Shop.org, the e-commerce arm of the National Retail Federation trade group. Holiday web sales in November and December could reach $82 billion, Shop.org says.

The group’s projection follows several others that also anticipate double-digit e-commerce growth from holiday shoppers. EMarketer, a market research firm, says that U.S. holiday e-retail sales will increase 15.1% this year compared with 2012. Deloitte LLP predicts a 12.5% to 13% increase in U.S. non-store (primarily online) sales. 

In November and December 2012, e-retail sales grew 13.7% over the prior year to $42.3 billion, according to comScore Inc., which measures consumers’ web activity.

Shop.org says it bases its projection on government data that take into account consumer confidence, disposable personal income, monthly retail sales increases and other factors. Its parent organization, the National Retail Federation, estimates that total U.S. retail sales in November and December will increase 6.9% year over year to $602.1 billion. That compares with a 3.5% year over year holiday sales increase in 2012, the trade group says.

Online shoppers this holiday season will use a variety of devices and techniques to stretch their dollars, says Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the National Retail Federation.

“Online and mobile continue to be a leading area of growth for retailers,” he says. “In this economy savvy, cost-conscious consumers go to the web to do their research and get the best bang for their buck. In addition to researching what their peers are saying online about products and gifts this holiday season, consumers will use the buy online, pick-up in store option, retailers’ apps and mobile websites to find something special for their loved ones.”

One thing different this holiday shopping season is the amount of time that consumers will have to shop during the peak Thanksgiving-Christmas period. There are 25 days this year between the day after Thanksgiving, or Black Friday (Nov. 29), and Christmas. That compares with with 31 days in 2012. As well, consumers have four full weekends this year, not five, to shop for gifts.

The reduced shopping time this year should serve to increase the focus of consumers, says Vicki Cantrell, Shop.org’s executive director, senior vice president, communities. “Now that we have a tighter season, the shopping will be more top of mind on a consistent basis,” she says.

Another consideration for retailers and consumers this year is the confluence of the first day of Hanukkah and Thanksgiving. Cantrell says the Jewish commemoration has become less about gift giving over the years, but that it could change if retailers faced with soft sales push Hanukkah-themed offers toward the end of the eight-day period.

Another possible influence on holiday shopping is how long the U.S. government shutdown lasts, and what that will mean for consumer confidence, she says. “The length of the shutdown will impact” holiday shopping, she says, declining to project how long it would take before consumer confidence takes a major hit.

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