Books, Music, Video Top Holiday Online Shopping Lists

Hoping to avoid long lines at the register and searching for bargains, holiday e-shoppers turned to books, music, videos and DVDs as their top choices. Together, these items represented 17.8 percent of all holiday spending, accounting for nearly US$1.9 billion this season, according to a report issued by Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings.

Apparel was a close second, with purchases representing 17.5 percent ofholiday sales online, for a total of $1.8 billion in sales. Travel-related purchases,which typically comprises a quarter of the consumer online retail marketduring the year, accounted for just 14.7 percent of holiday spending at $1.54billion.

Seasonal sales in other two categories — consumer electronics, toys andvideo games — accounted for 11.6 percent and 11.4 percent of the market,respectively, garnering $1.21 billion and $1.19 billion in sales.

Apparel, Consumer Electronics Sales Jump

The biggest jumps in holiday spending this season were in the appareland consumer electronics categories, with gains of 10 and 47 percent,respectively, over last year, Lori Iventosch-James, director of e-commerce research for Harris Interactive, noted.

Sales of books, music and video/DVD products increased 23 percent since last year’s holiday season, while toys jumped57 percent since the same time period.

“These top five categories cover nearly two-thirds of all consumer spendingonline, and e-tailers with a focus on these product categories are poised tobenefit,” said Iventosch-James.

Andrew Bartels, vice president of technology and electronic commercestrategies for Giga Information Group told the E-Commerce Times his estimationsshow the most notable increase has been in apparel sales.

Traditional catalog retailers, such as L.L. Bean, Land’s End and J Crew havebeen “successful in figuring out ways to turn some limitations of the net totheir advantage,” said Bartels.

Bartels credited customizable sizing technologies, including the use ofvirtual models, for luring apparel shoppers online.

At the same time, major retailers have gotten betterabout tying the in-store experience to the Internet, Bartels added. He cited the Gap, which insome locations has in-store Internet kiosks allowing shoppers to orderout-of-stock items through the company’s Web site.

Bargain Shoppers Avoid Crowds

The main reason 39 percent of consumers turned to the Internet for holiday shopping was to avoid traffic at theirlocal stores and having to wait in long lines, the study showed. Earlier in the season, only 26 percent said that avoidingcrowds was their top reason for shopping online.

Finding better bargains online was the major motivator for 33 percent of thosesurveyed, while 21 percent cited a lack of sales tax as their spur for onlinepurchasing.

Holiday Spending Strong

Online sales for the holidays look strong in general, Bartels said, citingthird-quarter results by the U.S. Census Bureau that showed online sales rangup a total of $11 billion. The figure represents a 34.3 percent increase overlast year.

According to census figures, the year-over-year increase is the largest since2001’s first quarter of 2001 gain of 42 percent.

The figures were a signal to online retailers that the holidayseason would fare well, said Bartels, as the third-quarter numbers already comparedfavorably to 2001’s fourth quarter $11.2 billion in holiday sales.

But how the holidays fall on the calendar this year may have as much to dowith propelling consumers toward the online channel to shop.

“The short holiday season has put a lot of pressure on people in terms of timefor shopping, and they’re turning to the Internet as a means of buying thingsquickly,” said Bartels.

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