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1999 Holiday Sales: Will Bricks Or Clicks Win?

By Rob Spiegel
Nov 5, 1999 12:00 AM PT

With Halloween behind us, holiday shopping is about to break. Marketing managers at e-tailers around the world are wringing their hands and watching their click-throughs. Careers across hundreds of e-tailers may hang in the balance.

1999 Holiday Sales: Will Bricks Or Clicks Win?

With that sobering thought in mind, I decided to study some Forrester Research survey results of "likely" places that e-shoppers will buy gifts during this heady Internet season. I wanted to see how the brick-and-mortar companies (Bricks) stood up against the Internet-only e-tailers (Clicks).

I handicapped the Bricks against the Clicks by looking at the top five companies in each of Forrester's eight categories of consumer products.

Forrester's results are based upon 5802 inquiries of holiday shoppers.

Toys and Games

The shocker here is that Toys "R" Us led the toy group by a large margin. I guess consumers haven't been reading all those stories about how far Toys "R" Us is falling behind eToys.

eToys did show up second, but it was followed closely by Disney, Wal-Mart and Mattel.

Bricks 4, Clicks 1.

Music and Videos

Isn't this category supposed to be the heartland of the Clicks? Amazon, of course, took first, and CDNow was second.

But biting at the heels came Columbia House, BMG and Blockbuster. No surprise that AOL wants to sneak into this category on the back of a Brick.

Bricks edge ahead, 3 to 2.

Apparel

We've covered this ground before. Remember, no matter how virtual you get, customers want to be able to touch it.

Bricks 5, Clicks 0.

Health and Beauty

Drugstore.com is the lone Click in a category dominated by some of the brand names of the century: Avon and Cover Girl.

Bricks 4, Clicks 1.

Electronics

Hey, isn't this more of the Click's home ground? Best Buy hits first, and Wal-Mart comes in third.

Amazon is the only Click in here. If it weren't for Amazon, it would be easy to forget there are any Click e-tailers.

Bricks again, 4 to 1.

Computer Hardware

ZDNet comes in first. Rack one for the Clicks. And Dell shows up, of course. The surprise is the fine showing by Hewlett Packard and Office Depot.

Clicks 3, Bricks 2.

Travel Services

The Clicks really needed this one. They came in with the usual suspects, Cheap Tickets, priceline.com and Travelocity. Missing was Preview Travel.

Bricks scored with airline-specific sites, Southwest and American Airlines.

Dynasty: Clicks 3, Bricks 2.

Books

What are the Bricks doing winning this category? Well, you can almost count Barnes and Noble as a Click. They've been chasing Amazon so long online that they must be a honorary Click by now.

Surprises include quiet little Borders in the three spot, rounded out by ChristianBook and Buy.com in fourth and fifth.

Surely you know who came in first.

Dynasty Ends: Bricks 3, Clicks 2.

Surprises Abound

There you have it. If Forrester's shoppers are telling the truth, the winner's circle will be populated by some real surprises.

After all, last year's entire season was a surprise.

Across the market, executives and managers are beginning to downplay this nervous horse race. I keep hearing the refrain, "Well actually, we're looking at the whole year, not just the '99 holiday season."

Yeah, right.

They say this as their companies push all of their chips into the pot.


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