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Get Ready, Get Set, Shop!

  |  December 2, 2002   |  Comments

Black Friday was a nice boost for online sales as lots of consumers avoided mall madness and simply shopped the Web; one estimate shows a 61 percent spike in online sales.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, turned out to be a red-letter day for a lot of online retailers, as consumers not only flocked to real-world stores, but also spent a lot of time letting their fingers do the shopping at a variety of e-commerce sites.

BizRate.com said its figures show that Nov. 29, the Friday that is traditionally the busiest day of the holiday season, produced a 61 percent spike in online retail sales compared to the equivalent day a year ago as U.S. consumers spent an estimated $234.2 million.

The figures are based on BizRate.com's feedback monitoring network of more than 2,000 online merchants.

Clearly there was no shortage of shoppers, online or off. The third installment of the National Retail Federation's 2002 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch for the NRF, indicates that 75.6 percent of consumers were out shopping on "Black Friday" weekend.

The term "Black Friday" was coined because traditionally, the day after Thanksgiving was the big sales day that retailers went from being in the red to being "in the black."

The NRF, which is predicting an overall 4 percent sales gain for the holiday season year over year, reported that, as expected, discount department stores (can you say Wal-Mart?) appear to be faring well. About 49 percent of consumers made this format a shopping destination. Consumers are also recognizing values in other formats, with 30.6 percent shopping at department stores, 33.2 percent choosing the Internet, 27.2 percent visiting specialty stores, and 16 percent shopping via catalogs.

Everybody measures things differently in the world of online sales, but the conclusions from other measurement outfits were similar. comScore Networks said that "clearly the online shopping experience offers consumers a very attractive alternative to battling crowds in the nation's malls and other shopping centers this (past) weekend."

Reston, Va.-based ComScore's figures show that online shoppers spent an estimated $150.9 million on non-travel e-commerce on Black Friday, up 40 percent from an estimated $107.1 million on the similar day in 2001. Travel spending was up slightly, to $44.7 million from $41.9 million a year ago as people locked in their holiday travel plans.

The top three non-travel spending categories online were Computer Hardware, up 8 percent; Consumer Electronics, up 36 percent, and the Apparel & Accessories category, up 24 percent.

"... note that the largest growth driver we're seeing is the sheer volume of online buyers – up 30+ percent in recent weeks versus a year-ago," Dan Hess, comScore vice president, told internetnews.com. "comScore data is also showing more clearly than ever that once people start shopping online, they do so more frequently over time."

The need to maximize dollars is also driving shoppers online to e-tailing Web sites in droves.

That's amply demonstrated by the latest Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings eSpending Report, which shows holiday online spending jumped 29 percent year-over-year as consumers shelled out $4.5 billion during the first three weeks of November.

That report also showed that spending per person increased to nearly $88 during the week ending Nov. 22, surging 22 percent over the previous week and rising 8 percent as compared to the same time last year.

"Despite the continued economic instability, holiday shoppers have opened up their pocketbooks online," said Lisa Strand, director and chief e-commerce analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings. "We're seeing consumers shift their budgets this year, with more shoppers planning to increase their online spending while reducing catalog and off-line store spending."

Indeed. Discount site Overstock.com, for instance, said that its Thanksgiving weekend sales were $2.5 million -- a 150 percent increase over last year.

How is the Internet itself holding up with all this traffic? According to the Keynote Consumer 40 Internet Performance Index, which assesses the download performance of top Web sites over dial-up connections, the larger shopping sites all appeared to perform normally the day after Thanksgiving.

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