Holiday Forecasting Season Opens

Well, it’s official. The 2002 holiday forecasting season has begun, and it’s
not yet Labor Day. And among the first out of the prediction blocks is comScore
Networks, which issued a forecast for online fourth quarter sales of $13.8
billion, excluding travel products.


That figure is up 27 percent from the fourth quarter a year ago, and this
despite a compressed holiday shopping period, with Thanksgiving not coming
until Nov. 28. The online shopping season also ends earlier than the off-line
season — typically around Dec. 20 or 21, because of the need to ship the
merchandise.


That also means that consumers are likely to become increasingly reliant on
multi-channel “order online/pick up in store” services where available,
comScore said.


The day after Thanksgiving is likely to bring higher online sales, but the
true start of the online season will occur on the following Monday, Dec. 2,
when many consumers return to work and have the benefit of being able to use
a high-speed Internet connection, comScore said.


comScore said its data has consistently shown that online sales made using
workplace computers are about twice the level seen on computers located at
home.


And, watch for pure play Internet retailers, with limited off-line
infrastructure and/or off-line partnerships, to compete even more
aggressively with shipping and pricing promotions.


Despite a decline in consumer confidence in recent months, comScore said it
is predicting “a vibrant online shopping season.” And it’s already been a
good year for many online retailers as, year-to-date non travel spending has
been an estimated $24.9 billion, compared to $19.5 billion for the same
period in 2001. Those figures exclude auctions and large corporate purchases.


Computer hardware is the top sales category so far this year, followed in
order by Office Supplies & Stationery, Apparel & Accessories and Consumer
Electronics.


The highest online sales day of last year was Dec. 12, when consumers posted
$262 million in non-travel sales. This year comScore said it expects a peak
day approaching $350 million, excluding travel.


comScore extrapolates data from a panel of more than 1.5 million members who
have agreed to have their Internet behavior confidentially monitored on an
anonymous basis.

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