December 31, 2004


Late Shoppers Help Online Retailers Sell More (Griff Witte, December 31, 2004, Washington Post)

Online retailers sold $14.8 billion worth of goods and services between Nov. 1 and Dec. 26, a 29 percent increase over the comparable period in 2003, according to statistics released this week by ComScore Networks, which tracks online spending. The increase was particularly pronounced in the week before Christmas, when online sales hit $1.22 billion, 53 percent higher than the corresponding week last year.

"We expected a solid season," said ComScore senior vice president Daniel E. Hess. "But the results for the final two weeks are far beyond our expectations." [...]

The late strength of online sales mirrored the trend for retailers overall this holiday season. Sales in November were disappointing, spawning fears that Christmas 2004 would be less than joyous for merchants. But the procrastinators showed up with a vengeance in late December and managed to provide most retailers with strong results and needed momentum heading into the new year.

Although online sales make up only a single-digit percentage of the retail business, they have a powerful effect on consumer choices, with many people researching prices and selection on the Web before they hit the stores. Hess said 90 million people a week visited at least one retail Web site in the lead-up to Christmas.

With shortages reported for some popular items such as Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod, many consumers racing against the clock -- and against other shoppers -- opted this year for a hybrid retail experience that involved both highways and high-tech. At Best Buy, for example, the company's customers made frequent use of a feature that allowed them to reserve a particular item online, and then get in the car and pick it up at a local store.

Sears offered much the same service. "When the holidays were getting close, it became an important option for those not wanting to leave anything to chance," Sears spokeswoman Rochelle Mangold said.

The popularity of gift cards this year also contributed to high rates of online shopping, since they could be ordered anytime and show up in the recipient's e-mail inbox within seconds.

The folks who were fretting about the "slowdown" on the Saturday after Thanksgiving sounded especially silly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 31, 2004 3:30 PM

Never stepped foot into a store (other than food or wine) after Thanksgiving. Everything was on-line. The wife especially enjoyed to GWB tree ornament and Bush Country t-shirt.

My mother now only sends us gift cards to Borders, etc.

Posted by: Rick T. at December 31, 2004 3:36 PM