January 30, 2001, 5:16 PM

Online holiday sales top $6 billion

Online shoppers spent more than $6 billion this holiday season, according to BizRate.com, with more than 52 million orders placed online between Nov. 20, 2000, and Dec. 26, 2000. That figure represents a 60% increase from the comparative period last year, when total holiday sales for the web reached $3.75 billion and online orders neared 38 million (for the period spanning Nov. 22 through Dec. 26, 1999).

"Last year, the story was how consumers were stung by e-tailers' poor planning. This year, consumers are the winners because e-tailers sat up, listened and met expectations," says Chuck Davis, president and chief executive officer of BizRate.com.

"What is important this year is that e-tailers were able to deliver on their promises -- including on-time shipment and customer support. As a result, many businesses were rewarded with repeat customers as satisfied shoppers returned later in the season for additional gift purchases."

In fact, the holiday peak sales day arrived five days later this season, when merchants rung up a record-breaking $254 million in sales on Monday, Dec. 18.

On-time delivery, having ranked last in BizRate.com's audit of customer satisfaction in 1999, leapt to third place this year. In fact, 88% of online orders were delivered on time (for the period of Nov. 20 through Dec. 15, 2000). This was a significant increase from last season, when 74% of purchases were delivered on time.

Retail categories experiencing the highest level of growth in sales compared with holiday 1999 included Home and Garden (+277.1%), Toys (+158.5%) and Food and Wine (+77.4%). Entertainment goods (including compact discs, videos and DVDs) remained the retail leader in popularity among web shoppers, representing a quarter of all online transactions (excluding services such as travel) for the holiday season.

For the first time, women made up the majority of holiday shoppers (at 56%, compared with 50% in 1999) and are positioned to become the power behind online shopping.

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