Online Shopping Boomed This Holiday Season

Holiday Shopping online increased 25 percent this year as bargain hunters
often opted for virtual malls instead of fighting crowds at traditional brick
and mortar outlets, according to a survey.

The eSpending Report from Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings
showed sales in 2004 jumped to $23.2 billion, up $4.7 billon, from 2003. The numbers
do not include online travel purchases.

The report is based on surveys of more than 1,000 respondents who purchased
gifts online between Nov. 1 and Dec. 26.

Shoppers cited convenience, variety and bargains as the three top reasons
they bought gifts online, according to the survey.

“Online shopping contributed significantly to overall 2004 holiday sales
by attracting consumers through a broad product selection,” Heather Dougherty,
senior retail analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, said in a statement.

Clothing once again remained the most popular purchase, as consumers shelled
out $3.8 billion, or 16 percent of total online sales for merchandise.
The toy/video game market, much like in traditional stores, was a big holiday
seller, accounting for $2.5 billion, or 11 percent of online revenue. The
electronics category rounded out the top three with $2.3 billion, or 10 percent
of total of online sales.

“Consumers have become accustomed to purchasing online over the years and
look to the Internet to find comprehensive product information, competitive
prices and easy gift delivery, allowing them to have more time to spend on other
holiday activities,” Dougherty said.

Jewelry made the biggest strides this season, with sales on the Internet
increasing 113 percent to $1.9 billion. In 2003, it failed to reach
the billion dollar mark with total sales clocking out at $888 million.

The report also suggests consumers have become more familiar and trusting
with their online buying options.

Thirty-six percent said avoiding crowds was the primary reason they purchased
online, while the same percentage said lower prices were why they beat a path to
the computer rather than Main Street. Another 33 percent cited increased product
selection.

The survey also showed 37 percent were “very satisfied” with shopping online
during the holidays, while 24 percent were “somewhat satisfied.” Thirty
percent said their online shopping experience had improved over 2003.

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