January 4, 2006, 12:00 AM

Ebates reports members saved more than $1 million in holiday shopping 2005

By combining cash back with coupons and specials, Ebates members saved more than $1 million between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Category shifts in spending show consumers are buying a broader variety of goods online.

Members of online shopping rebate site Ebates.com saved more than $1 million during the holiday shopping season by combining cash back with coupons and specials, the company reports, with category shifts in spending indicating that consumers are buying a broader variety of goods online.

“Consumers are branching out online, and that’s good news for retailers,” says Alessandro Isolani, Ebates co-founder and CEO. “They`re spending more money online overall, and they’re spreading it out among more product categories than before.”

The data were based on Ebates member spending from Black Friday through Christmas. Representing 9.9% of all member spending through Ebates, the consumer electronics category still accounted for the largest share among categories, but as a percentage of total spending, it dropped 2.1% from the same period last year. Business and office supplies at 8% of member spending dropped 3.1% from last year.

By contrast, spending in other categories gained as a percentage of total spending, with spending in apparel rising 1.6% from last year to represent 8.1% of Ebates holiday spending this year; home & garden gaining 1.1% to account for 8.1% of spending this year, and jewelry rising 1% to account for 6.9%.

“The computer and electronics categories still attract a lot of buyers, but now shoppers are more willing to also buy clothing and items for their homes online,” says Isolani.

All categories of spending at Ebates, even those that lost percentage share to other categories, grew in actual spending year over year, according to Markus Mullarkey, senior vice president of sales and marketing. Though the privately-held company does not disclose actual sales numbers, “We saw similar and in many cases more dramatic growth than industry numbers quoted” for the year, Mullarkey adds.

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