December 17, 2003, 12:00 AM

Online spending rises 85% year-over-year, as shoppers avoid store crowds

Consumers spent $2.7 billion online during the week ended Dec. 5, up 18% over the prior week and 85% from a year ago, says a study by Nielsen/NetRatings, Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Harris Interactive.

Consumers spent $2.7 billion online for non-travel-related products and services during the week ended Dec. 5, up 18% over the prior week and 85% from $1.46 billion a year ago, according to the eSpending report from Nielsen/NetRatings, Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Harris Interactive. The report adds that only 31% of survey respondents said they had completed their online holiday shopping.


"With nearly seventy percent of consumers still shopping, there`s still plenty of room for growth and increased spending online," said Abha Bhagat, senior analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. "With Chanukah beginning three weeks later this year as compared to last year and retailers extending shipping deadlines, we`re looking forward to continued growth and a solid overall holiday season."


Other studies have reported far smaller increases in online holiday sales. ComScore Networks Inc., for instance, reports that non-travel-related online sales rose 26% year-over-year for the week ended Dec. 8, to $2.02 billion from $1.6 billion.

The eSpending report notes that the top reason online consumers prefer to shop on the web is to avoid crowds, a reason cited by 38% of respondents. The next four reasons consumers prefer the web, and the percent of respondents citing them: Lower prices, 35%; ease of comparing products and prices, 28%; avoiding the inconvenience of traveling to stores, 28%; and a wider selection of products, 26%.


"Convenience and ease of comparison shopping have long been advantages for online shoppers," said Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research, Harris Interactive. "As the holiday season progresses, we expect to see a shift in priorities as price will decrease in importance and the desire to avoid crowds grows greater. And as more retailers are making product returns easier, either in-store or through free return shipping, online shopping is an increasingly attractive option."


The eSpending Report was based on a survey of 1,300 respondents.


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