Internet shopping of to fast start
The Borneo Post - Friday, 29 November, 2002
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WASHINGTON: US holiday shopping on the Internet is off to a fast start this year, amid projections of a blockbuster season for the Web despite a lackluster trend for overall retail sales.

A survey by the research firm comScore found that online consumer sales for the week ending November 22 hit 1.6 billion dollars, up 53 percent from the same period a year ago.

ComScore found that weekly spending on goods and services excluding travel increased to 988 million dollars, an increase of 36 percent versus the same week last year.

Holiday shopping on the Web already moved into full swing ahead of the traditional retail season starting the Friday after Thanksgiving which because of a calendar quirk, shortens the shopping season to Christmas by six days.

According to comScore, online sales of books rose 31 percent from a year ago, and other categories were higher with the exception of computer sales.

"Overall, online sales continue to be strong, but the softness we're reporting in sales of computer hardware is consistent with overall expectations of the tech sector," said Michelle David Adams, comScore Networks vice president.

"Last week's online sales growth was influenced by the timing of Thanksgiving 2001 and other events which softened the year-ago period. But even with this effect, comScore data are reporting solid gains as the holiday season progresses."

The survey also found that online travel sales totaled 626 million dollars, 92 percent greater than the same week last year, when travel was depressed in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

Overall, analysts are projecting strong growth in holiday Internet sales even though overall retail sales are projected to be up just a few percentage points.

Major analysts are projecting online holiday sales of 12.9 billion to 17.5 billion dollars, according to the market research firm eMarketer, which adjusted various projections for the different periods covered. Growth is projected at between 14.5 percent and 35.6 percent for the period.

eMarketer's own projections are somewhat cautious, suggesting growth of 16 percent. "This year, the US economy continues to show signs of weakness," it said.

"Consumer confidence has dipped lower, unemployment remains high and stock prices are volatile. But it is still possible for online retailers to have a merry Christmas."

"Online holiday spending is the bright spot in an otherwise dark picture," says Nevin Cohen, analyst at eMarketer. "When overall retail sales are expected to grow only three or four percent over last year's holiday shopping numbers, maintaining double-digit growth is great news."

Official government figures show Internet sales are on a strong growth track this year.

The Commerce Department reported this month that US Internet retail sales surged 34.3 percent in the third quarter from the same period a year ago to 11.06 billion dollars.

Internet sales still represent a small fraction of overall retail sales, but the percentage is growing: ecommerce accounted for 1. 3 percent of total sales in the third quarter, up from 1.1 percent a year earlier.

A survey by the research firm GartnerG2 found that US consumers planning to buy gifts over the Internet expect to spend an average of 235 dollars online season; online spending by those consumers will account for more than a quarter of the total 800 dollars they plan to spend on gifts. - AFP