Online Sales Reach $1.5B a Week

Total online consumer sales in the United States for the week of Dec. 9 were an estimated $1.5 billion, according to Web measurement firm comScore Networks, which claims that its spending estimates are as good as the government’s.

Reston, Va.-based comScore said its sales figures show “continued strength in hard goods, which turned in record sales of nearly $1.2 billion, a weekly level fully double the benchmark average established in the five months prior to September 2001.”

comScore also took the opportunity to do a little bragging about its predictive capability, saying that its estimate of e-commerce sales for the third quarter, originally published in the first week of October, is consistent with U.S. Department of Commerce estimates.

The company said the toys category last week again led in growth, and consumer electronics, computer hardware and video games each turned in sales levels of more than 100 percent above the average for the year.

The online travel category nosed down to approximately $325 million, from $418 million the week before.

“We suspect that immediately following Thanksgiving, sales surged as consumers completed travel bookings they had postponed while celebrating the holiday,” said Dan Hess, comScore vice president. “By the following week, however, much of this demand had been met and many tickets were sold at sharply reduced prices, dampening the effect of those bookings on total travel dollar sales.”

“That said,” continued Hess, “we’re encouraged by the continued strong performance of Hard Goods and expect sales in this sector for the fourth quarter to exceed $10 billion, up 10 percent versus the year-ago period.”

Unfortunately, that rate of growth is below what many had hoped for. But comScore’s figures are in line with the latest figures from Nielsen//NetRatings and Harris Interactive, which show that e-commerce spending in November 2001 jumped only 10 percent from November 2000. Spending rose 14 percent from October to November, half of the 29 percent increase seen in 2000.

Meanwhile, accuracy in predicting Web sales would seem to be key if you’re in the online measurement business, and comScore said its comparison study shows that it is generating consistent sales estimates, with a difference of only 3 percent from government figures.

This government estimate does not include sales of travel services, event tickets, or products purchased via online auction sites, but does include online auction commissions and fees.

comScore said that its estimate, issued more than seven weeks prior to the release of the Department of Commerce figures, showed e-commerce sales of $7.240 billion, not including travel services or event tickets but including an estimate for auction fees. The Department of Commerce figures showed e-commerce sales of $7.472 billion for the period.

A search on the comScore Web site failed to come up with such a prediction, however. comScore Vice President Daniel E. Hess told that “we did not publish the third quarter number per se, (although) we were publishing our weekly numbers every week …”

comScore’s sales figures are based on the actual, passively captured purchase activity of a representative cross-section of over 1.5 million Internet users, who have given comScore permission to monitor their browsing and buying behavior confidentially using the company’s patent-pending technology.

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