Though the date didn’t garner the advance hype of Cyber Monday, the first Thursday in December actually set the pace for the holiday shopping season so far, with consumers spending a record US$800 million in virtual stores, according to a report released Monday by comScore.
Thursday, Dec. 6, marked the busiest online shopping day in the history of e-commerce based on sales totals, comScore said, exceeding the $733 million that was spent on Cyber Monday — the first Monday after Thanksgiving and the date that has taken on added significance for Web merchants as the formal kickoff to the holiday stretch run. The $800 million in sales is a 28 percent increase when compared with the same date in 2006.
Shoppers may yet outdo even their Dec. 6 spending levels, with Monday expected to be another busy day. Sales are expected to begin to taper off in coming days as shipping deadlines approach.
‘A Strong Start’
“December got off to a strong start,” said comScore Chairman Gian Gulgoni, adding that sales for the first week of the month were up 20 percent when compared with a year ago.
“We expect the upcoming week to be the heaviest online spending week of the holiday season as the procrastinators and late-season deal-seekers come out in earnest,” Gulgoni added.
Since the beginning of November — which comScore considers the start of an approximately eight-week holiday shopping season — sales have totaled $18 million, the firm said, an 18 percent increase when compared with 2006 spending levels. The firm is now forecasting total sales by year’s end to be up as much as 21 percent.
The Usual Suspects
Not surprisingly, the top holiday-related searches tracked by comScore include what are being billed as the year’s hottest technology gift items. More than 30 million searches were conducted for the Nintendo Wii gaming console during November, nearly 25 million people searched for Apple’s iPod and another 11 million sought out Microsoft’s Xbox 360, the firm said.
“Gaming consoles and accessories represent the strongest-growing product category this holiday season,” Fulgoni said, with sales more than doubling based on the firm’s estimates. “While iPods and iPhones are predictably popular, we’re also seeing that consumers are actively searching for information on GPS (Global Positioning System) products. This is a category that can be expected to grow strongly during the next few years.”
Online retailers are eager to continue the early momentum from Cyber Monday and the days afterwards. Both Monday, Dec. 3, and Monday, Dec. 10, were on pace to be busier days, with traffic to the shopping portal on the first Monday of the month up 50 percent over the same day last year, according to data from Yahoo Shopping.
“Online merchants are becoming increasingly savvy about using the right mix of promotions and discounts to get shoppers to their sites early and to get them to come back later in the shopping season,” Fiona Lake Waslander, the director of Yahoo Shopping, told the E-Commerce Times.
This year’s season is difficult to compare with last year, since an early Thanksgiving created an additional week of shopping before Christmas. At the same time, shoppers are likely more confident than ever that even purchases made in mid-December will arrive in time for the holiday, Waslander added.
Buy Now, Pay Later?
Yahoo continues to see apparel as the most popular shopping category, outpacing electronics even though the Wii remains the top product — with the Xbox closing in on its rival.
While forecasters widely agree that sales will be up in the 20-percent range, a question that will linger into the new year will be how much of the sales increase is attributable to sharp discounting or promotional programs such as free shipping, noted JupiterResearch analyst Patti Freeman Evans.
“The results seems to emphasize that heavy promotions work,” she told the E-Commerce Times. “The question is what’s happening with order size and whether it’s all worth it at the end of the season.”