Jewelry and watches to fuel more than $19 billion in online holiday spending

Consumer spending on non-travel goods at U.S. Internet sites will exceed $19 billion during the November through December holiday season, representing approximately 24 percent growth over the 2004 season, comScore Networks forecast.

“Expectations across all channels for this holiday season have been dampened slightly by high gas prices and wavering consumer confidence,” said Gian Fulgoni, chairman and co-founder of comScore Networks. “However, e-commerce will remain strong as consumers continue to shift more of their holiday spending to the online channel because of the Web’s convenience and the savings available through its price comparison capabilities.”

He adds, “The strong growth of e-commerce in traditionally offline categories such as apparel and accessories, home and garden, and jewelry and watches is a clear indicator that channel switching continues. Consumer-focused initiatives such as in-store pick-up, free shipping, and hassle-free returns have helped merchants convince consumers to consider shopping in a wider array of categories online.”

Consumers continue to turn toward comparison shopping sites and traditional search engines to help them find lower prices or locate difficult-to-find products, according to comScore. Comparison shopping sites represent one of the fastest growing categories online, attracting more than 54.7 million visitors in October, a 52-percent increase compared to a year ago.

Driven by strong brands, significant online/offline promotions and in-store pick-up and returns, multi-channel retailers will likely outpace many of their online-only competitors this year, as they have done in previous years, according to comScore’s research. In October 2005, three of the top five most visited retail Web sites were multi-channel retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target Corporation, and Apple Computer, Inc.

“Pure online brands will continue to do well this holiday season,” Fulgoni said. “But multi-channel retailers will once again post the highest overall growth in online sales as newer online shoppers turn to the brands they trust.”