Online sales to reach $13 billion this holiday season

The U.S. economy continues to show signs of weakness. However, as the all-important holiday shopping season nears, there is a bright spot, according to a recently released report.

The US Online Holiday Shopping Report, online retail sales will grow to $13 billion (minus online travel sales) during the 2002 holiday season—an increase of 16% over fourth quarter 2001 and four times the rate by which overall retail sales are expected to grow during the same period.

Online sales continue to capture new consumers and a larger slice of the total retail pie, according to the publication, recently released by eMarketer, which provides eBusiness statistics and publishes Internet and eBusiness information for marketing professionals.

“Online holiday spending is the bright spot in an otherwise dark picture,” says Nevin Cohen, Senior 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.”

This increase is due to both changing behavior and changing demographics, Cohen says. In addition to a growing number of online buyers, with 62 million projected to make a purchase in the fourth quarter, more consumers are making a larger portion of their purchases online. Also, more early Internet adopters—particularly young adults—now have the credit cards and the income required to buy online. Finally, more late adopters, such as working-class adults and seniors, will make their first purchase online this holiday season. In total, 3 million people will make their first online purchase this quarter.

“To achieve these numbers online retailers are going to have to move faster than ever,” says Cohen. “This year, Thanksgiving falls later than usual, on November 28th, and the online shopping season ends around December 20th, a few days earlier than the off-line season because of the need to ship the merchandise in time for Christmas delivery. The shorter number of days makes it incumbent upon internet retailers to drive sales through aggressive marketing, such as online promotions prior to Thanksgiving, and improved customer service.”

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