May 16, 2008, 12:00 AM

Consumers are window-shopping online but spending carefully, ShopLocal says

The ShopLocal Index registered a 30% increase year over year in the number of page views of retailers’ online sales circulars. But there was a 9% drop in consumers who purchased an item in addition to the one they were researching, ShopLocal says.

Consumers were window-shopping more in April, but being careful about their spending, suggests the ShopLocal Index. The index is based on page views of the online sales circulars ShopLocal serves up to the web sites of 50 major U.S. retailers.

The index was up 30% in April over a year earlier, based on 265 million page views from 21 million consumer visits to retailer sites. The index, which provides some indication of how online research by consumers affects in-store sales, stood at 188 in April, based on a benchmark of 100 in January 2006.

One indication of consumer caution was the 9% drop compared to April 2007 in the number of consumers who said they bought additional items besides the product they were researching. However, 83% of consumers who viewed the online circulars made a purchase within three weeks, the survey shows. Of those, 86% bought in a store and 14% online, ShopLocal says.

Page views per visit grew 10% to 12.8, suggesting shoppers are scrutinizing the circulars carefully for deals, ShopLocal says. Visits to the food and drug category jumped 44% in April, which ShopLocal attributes to consumers looking for savings at a time when food and gas prices were rising sharply. The home and garden category registered 41% growth, as the harsh winter finally eased in many parts of the country.

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