From the first week of November through December 17th, online holiday shoppers spent US$8.7 billion, a 108 percent increase over the $4.2 billion consumers spent online during the same period last year.
“We’ve had a much longer online holiday season this year than we did in 1999,” PC Data Online analyst Cameron Meierhoefer said. “In 1999, consumers bombarded online retailers in early December. This year, volume surged in early November and maintained peak levels.”
The latest numbers also show that online spending increased during the week ended December 17th to $1.6 billion, up from the previous week’s $1.5 billion. During the comparable week in 1999, online shoppers spent $878 million.
“This week, we saw a modest recovery in online holiday sales after significantly lower than expected sales last week,” Goldman Sachs Internet analyst Anthony Noto said.
Noto wrote in a report last week that e-tail sales saw a “significant, unanticipated deterioration” in the week ended December 10th. Although e-tail sales had gained significantly over sales during the same week in 1999, the gains were less than had been hoped for.
All indications are that online holiday shoppers started their shopping earlier this year in a bid to avoid the delivery problems that plagued e-tailers last year.
“Cautious consumers started shopping earlier to ensure that gifts were delivered on time, while more experienced retailers encouraged early shopping so they could better manage the load,” Meierhoefer said.
There is some disagreement over when exactly the peak occurred. According to the Nielsen//NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index, traffic to e-tailers crested in the third week after Thanksgiving.
For its part, Media Metrix found that retail Web sites saw a peak in unique visitors in the second week after Thanksgiving.
During the most recent week studied by Goldman Sachs and PC Data Online, consumers spent the most on computer hardware at $236.7 million, followed by apparel at $227.2 million.
Travel was third at $197.5 million, followed by the toys/childrens category at $142.5 million. Of the latter classification, 90.4 percent of the spending done was for gifts, compared to 16.8 percent of travel spending.
The good news for e-tailers is that this year’s shoppers appear to be satisfied with the online shopping experience. The Goldman Sachs/PC Data Online survey found that 40 percent of respondents said that their online shopping experience was better than in 1999, 54 percent said it was the same and only 5 percent said it was worse.