Online Retailers Celebrate Happy Holidays

Final figures were still being tallied at press time, but it’s apparent that the 2005 holiday season was a good one for online retailers.

Retail and luxury-goods sites enjoyed a 39 percent growth rate, yielding 16.4 million visitors in November, faster than any other Internet category, according to comScore’s Media Metrix. Among the most-visited sites in the category was Zales.com, with 1.72 million unique visitors.

A report by Goldman Sachs, Nielsen/NetRatings, and Harris Interactive said online sales for the season (Oct. 29–Dec. 23, 2005) totaled $30.1 billion, up 30 percent from the previous year’s figures. Another survey, from comScore Networks, estimated online nontravel holiday spending totaled $19.6 billion, a 25 percent increase over the same period in 2004.

Gian Fulgoni, comScore Networks chairman, credited the sales increase, 1 percent over comScore’s forecasts, to aggressive promotions early in the season, steep price discounting toward the end of the season, and increased consumer confidence in expedited shipping.

Apparel and accessories purchases grew by 37 percent, the second-fastest growing category. The jewelry and watches category grew 27 percent compared with figures from the 2004 holiday season, says comScore.

Internet jewelry retailer Blue Nile did not release its final figures for the season but did release its “Annual Exceptional Gifts Lists,” which included two items that sold for more than $100,000.

Amazon.com said the 2005 holiday season was its best ever. The Seattle-based online retailer’s biggest sale during the season was a $94,000 pair of diamond earrings.

Amazon’s most popular jewelry items for the season were a 20-inch sterling silver eternity cross pendant, a diamond circle pendant, and a floating heart pendant with diamonds. Among its top watches were the Invicta Men’s Automatic Pro Diver S2, the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Movado’s Amarosa watches for women.

Another online retailer, Abazias.com, reported preliminary sales of $1.36 million for its fourth quarter of 2005—$300,000 over projections, and a 161 percent increase over last year’s figures.

Seven of the top 10 Internet sites for the holiday season were multichannel retailers (retailers with brick-and-mortar operations, catalogs, and other methods of selling product), according to comScore. The online auction house eBay received the most visitors, followed by Amazon, Wal-Mart, Apple Computer, Target, Dell, Toys “R” Us, Overstock.com, Best Buy, and Circuit City Stores.