January 18, 2005, 12:00 AM

Online shopping will continue to thrive, NRF chief economist says

November and December web sales totaled $23 billion, up 25% from $18.4 billion a year ago, while total retail holiday sales rose 5.7% to $222.3 billion, NRF chief economist Rosalind Wells said today. "Online shopping will continue to thrive," she said.

 

Online holiday sales for the months of November and December totaled $23 billion in 2004, up 25% from $18.4 billion a year ago, while total retail holiday sales rose 5.7% to $222.3 billion, Rosalind Wells, chief economist for the National Retail Federation, said today. "Online shopping will continue to thrive," she said.

Wells, speaking at a press conference today at the NRF’s Redefining Retail convention and expo in New York, said she believes online shopping is in a long-term growth mode because consumers are increasingly comfortable with the web and becoming accustomed to the convenience of shopping from home. “We’re seeing this growth year after year, and I don’t see any reason for that to stop,” Wells said.

Total holiday retail sales grew faster year-over-year than expected, rising 5.7% instead of an earlier projected 4.5%, Wells said. “That’s the best gain we’ve had since 1999,” she said. The NRF’s figures on total retail sales do not include sales from web-only retailers.

But 2004’s growth rates in retail sales are not likely to be repeated this year, because of multiple economics factors affecting consumers, Wells added. She predicted total sales for the first quarter will rise 3.7% year-over-year, compared to a gain of 9.9% in the year-ago quarter. “This year, consumers will be under increased financial pressure due to higher energy costs and slow wage growth,” Wells said. “Additionally, past stimuli provided by tax cuts and very low interest rates will no longer be there to boost consumer spending.”

 

 

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