A Merry Online Season for Web Merchants

Many online merchants reported holiday season sales increased two to three
times over results for 1996, according to a trade publication.

As an indication, the Gap’s online store, which opened in time for
the 1997 holiday season, already is on the verge of becoming one of the
chain’s biggest stores in terms of sales volume.

Currently, the Gap’s largest store in terms of volume is its 34th St. store
in New York, but the infant online operation could soon overtake that outlet
in terms of sales, a retail executive familiar with the situation told Advertising Age.

The clothier does not disclose sales volume for individual stores or the
online operation, but an analyst estimated sales at the Gap’s New York store
at $50 million annually.

While most retailers would not disclose numbers, America Online said its merchants
are expected to generate $150 million in sales for the month of December.

“A large part of that shopping is still impulse and convenience,” said Wendy
Brown, vice president of electronic commerce at America Online, noting that
40% of sales on AOL took place between the hours of 10 p.m. and 10 a.m.

For AOL shoppers, apparel was the No. 1 product purchased during the holidays,
followed by food, books, and flowers.

CUC International, which has an area on AOL as well a Web site called netMarket, reported its AOL
sales in December were up 47% over those of 1996.

Push media company PointCast found similar
results in a survey conducted on its site among 5,760 PointCast users,
Ad Age said. Of the respondents, 48% said they bought something
online during the
holiday season. Of those who said they shopped, 28% said they spent more than
$250 on the items and shipping.

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