Retailers shift their ad spending from TV, radio and print ads to digital ads.
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Following Amazon, the -billion dollar online retailers include Staples (No. 2) $4.9 billion; Office Depot (No. 3) $4.3 billion, Dell Inc. (No. 4) $3.9 billion; HP Home & Home Office Store (No. 5) $3 billion; OfficeMax (No. 6) $2.8 billion; Sears (No. 7) $2.4 billion; CDW (No. 8) $2 billion; SonyStyle.com (No. 9) $1.7 billion; Newegg.com (No. 10) $1.5 billion; Best Buy (No. 11) $1.4 billion; J.C. Penney (No. 12) $1.3 billion; Walmart.com (No. 13) $1.259 billion; QVC Inc. (No. 14) $1.256 billion; Apple Inc. (No. 15), $1.1 billion; Victoria’s Secret Direct (Limited Brands Inc.) (No. 16), $1.1 billion; and Circuit City (No. 17), $1 billion. Web sales for Dell, HP, OfficeMax, Sears, Sony, Best Buy, Walmart.com, Apple and Victoria’s Secret are Internet Retailer estimates. Other chains also posted solid e-commerce gains in 2006. Williams-Sonoma Inc. (No. 20) had 2006 web sales of $927 million vs. $766.3 million in 2005, an increase of 21%, while Gap Inc. Direct (No. 27) grew e-commerce revenue by 22.7% last year to $730 million from $595 million in the prior year.
Among the Top 100, seven retailers-Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 21), Zappos.com Inc. (No. 31), Blockbuster Inc. (No. 51), American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (No. 56), Harry and David Holdings Inc. (No. 75), VistaPrint Ltd. (No. 79), Restoration Hardware Inc. (No. 96)-had annual organic growth rates of better than 50%. Three merchants-Redcats USA (No. 28), The Talbots Inc. (No. 62) and Charming Shoppes (No. 100)-also grew year-over-year by more than 50%, but did so through acquisitions. Redcats acquired The Sportsman’s Guide Inc., while Talbots purchased the J. Jill Group and Charming Shoppes acquired Crosstown Traders.
Of the top 100 merchants, the fastest-growing based on organic growth were Blockbuster and VistaPrint. Blockbuster, which still trails online movie subscriber leader Netflix (No. 18) by a wide margin, posted 2006 web sales of $248.3 million, an increase of 73.9% from $142.8 million in 2005. VistaPrint grew its annual web sales by 67% to $152.1 million in 2006 from $90.9 million in 2005.
Among merchants ranked from 101 to 400, 46 retailers-15%-had annual sales growth of more than 50%, including eight that grew by more than 100%.
In 2006, Diapers.com (No. 396) finished with sales of $11 million-340% higher than web sales of $2.5 million in 2005-and expects revenue to exceed $30 million in 2007. Four years ago, co--founders Marc Lore and Vinit Bharara scanned dozens of consumer products categories and ranked more than 250,000 keywords and phrases looking for an under-served niche. They chose diapers as their prime merchandise category after their research showed that young families and couples about to start families were shopping online for specific diaper brands and other baby care products at discount prices.
“Shoppers were making more than 200,000 keyword searches on diapers each month and we couldn’t believe there weren’t more retailers going after the business opportunity,” Lore says.
Since founding the business as 1800Diapers Inc., Diapers.com has shipped more than 50 million diapers to about 120,000 parents, Lore says.
Diapers.com is growing because it’s taking the time to understand its niche and how shoppers are using search engines to find the specific products they are looking for. “We combed through search engine rankings looking for the right niche,” Lore says.
Search and find
Today many smaller retailers are growing because they are doing a better job of implementing both paid and natural search. Online shoppers also are using Google, Yahoo and other search engines to find and place orders on a growing number of web sites. And evidence suggests that smaller retailers have a better command of search marketing than their bigger colleagues, which may account in part for their faster growth, experts say.
Based on data supplied for each Top 500 retailer from Hitwise, now part of Experian, 40% of merchants ranked 400 to 500 depend on search engines to generate 50% or more of total site traffic. In contrast, only one Top 100 retailer, Northern Tool + Equipment Catalog Co. (No. 76) generates as much as 38% of site traffic from search engines, while most depend on search engines for 11% to 30% of monthly visits. “If virtual merchants are getting 50% of their traffic from Google and other engines and still growing at a combined rate of more than 20% per year, that tells me that the smaller niche players are doing a good job with pay-per-click and optimization to hold their own against the big players,” says Okamura. “If they weren’t properly using paid and natural search, many of the niche players would be out of business.”
In 2006, 13 of 14 merchant categories posted an increase in year-over-year sales. The fastest--growing Top 500 merchant category was hardware & home improvements followed closely by apparel & accessories. In 2006 total web sales for online hardware and home improvements retailers climbed 42% to $1.2 billion from $851.2 million in 2005. The Home Depot Inc. (No. 37) and Lowe’s (No. 69) lead the category with Internet Retailer estimated 2006 web sales of $404.1 million and $173.6 million, respectively. But the fastest-growing merchant was relative newcomer LumberLiquidators.com (No. 263), which grew 400% year-over-year to an Internet Retailer estimated $25 million in 2006.
The merchants in the largest category in the Top 500 Guide-apparel & accessories-continue to show that shoppers have no qualms with buying clothes and other items, including shoes and bags, online. Combined 2006 web sales rose by 41% to almost $10 billion from $7 billion in 2005.
In previous years, it wasn’t uncommon for almost all merchant categories to post annual revenue gains of more than 30% and in 2006 two segments-housewares & home furnishings and toys & hobbies-continued that trend. Top 500 housewares/home furnishings retailers grew their combined sales by 35% to $3.25 billion in 2006 from $2.41 billion in 2005, while online toys/hobbies posted a year-over-year increase of 32% to $979.1 million from $741 million. Combined sales in the specialty/non-apparel market also grew by 32% to $3.07 billion in 2006 from $2.33 billion in 2005.