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Amazon Leads E-Tailers in Visitors

Traffic to online retail site Amazon.com led all e-commerce shopping sites in November, up 32 percent from a year ago with 31.5 million unique visitors, according to Web measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings.

"Amazon's phenomenal growth in 2001 defies the law of large numbers," said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst at NetRatings . "Traffic to the site is more than three times as large as the next e-tailer. Posting double-digit growth year-over-year is noteworthy because of Amazon's sheer size."

If only there were a one-to-one correlation between traffic and sales, Amazon would be Wall Street's darling once again. However, a recent Goldman, Sachs advisory said "we are maintaining our estimate for $1.01 billion (in sales for the fourth quarter), a 4 percent year-over-year increase (and) a significant slowdown from the 44 percent increase in the fourth quarter of 2000."

Amazon has predicted a pro forma profit for the quarter, but by GAAP standards, a loss of about 8 cents a share is anticipated by analysts on average, according to First Call.

In the NetRatings study, Columbia House (music and movies) drew 8.7 million visitors and claimed the second ranking, while the Toysrus.com property (powered by Amazon) grabbed the No. 3 spot and attracted nearly 7.6 million unique visitors for November. Traffic to Barnes and Noble totaled 6.2 million unique visitors. Rounding out the top five, Apple.com recorded 6.1 million visitors.

"The fastest growing sites among the top e-tailers include Columbia House and Bestbuy.com, as value-oriented sites continue to appeal to the growing number of price-conscious shoppers," said Strand.

Meanwhile, Jupiter Media Metrix reported today that its Online Shopping Index, which aggregates Web visitors from both home and work to nearly 500 shopping sites and 19 subcategories, increased 55 percent for the week ending Dec. 16 versus the same week last year. The figures climbed from 33.8 million to 52.3 million unique visitors.

"Many consumers waited until late in the holiday season to make their gift purchases, and many were searching for late-season discounts," said Jared Blank, Jupiter Research analyst.

"Moreover, steady traffic to many bricks-and-mortar sites indicates that consumers are researching online with the intent of buying in the actual stores, highlighting the need for retailers to integrate their online and off-line operations," Blank said.

In the NetRatings Top 10, Bestbuy.com was sixth, followed in order by Dell, walmart.com, hp.com, and sears.com. For purposes of this study, an e-tailer is defined as an online store that sells tangible goods on the Internet. Excluded are travel sites, as well as financial services and auction sites such as eBay.

If eBay were included, it would lead the list, according to Jupiter Media Metrix figures, which show an average of 4.8 million unique visitors a day to the auction giant for the week ending Dec. 16, compared to an average of 2.5 million for Amazon.com.

Nielsen//NetRatings said that online shopping at work accounts for nearly half of all shopping activity. However, at home shopping spiked to 57 percent during the week ending Nov. 25, as consumers took advantage of the Thanksgiving holiday weekend to shop online.

"Despite the fact that there are three times more Internet users who have access to the Web at home, the percent of shopping activity at work matches home activity," said Strand.