Online holiday sales to reach US$25.3B

Despite a sluggish economy and the uncertainty raised by terrorist attacks in the U.S., worldwide online holiday spending is expected to soar this year, reaching US$25.3 billion, according to researcher GartnerG2, a unit of Gartner Inc.

Improved customer satisfaction and experience are expected to drive the online retail shopping spree, which is expected to result in a 39 per cent increase in worldwide sales over last year, GartnerG2 said Monday.

While some expected that online shopping would slow following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., which managed to kick the sagging U.S. economy while it was down, the attacks had a minor impact on planned spending, according to GartnerG2.

In a survey of 16,449 U.S. residents conducted Sept. 26 through Oct. 7, 80.5 per cent of respondents said that they would shop at the same rate as they did last year. And while 13.6 of those surveyed by GartnerG2 said that they would spend less online than they did last year, 6 per cent said that they would spend more.

As of mid-2001, more than 71 million U.S. adults made online purchases within a three-month period, 23 per cent more than last year, GartnerG2 said. North American fourth-quarter online sales revenue is expected to come in at US$11.86 billion, a 30 per cent increase over last year, GartnerG2 predicted.

While North America accounts for the lion’s share of business-to-consumer online holiday sales, sales outside of the region are expected to increase their share from 50 per cent last year to 53 per cent this year, GartnerG2 added.

Sales outside North America will be helped by European e-tailers’ improved Web site functionality and more flexible delivery times and methods, GartnerG2 analysts said. Additionally, more brick and mortar companies are venturing online in the Asia/Pacific region, the researcher reported.

GartnerG2 forecast that European online sales would reach US$8.58 billion in the fourth quarter of this year, a 39.6 per cent increase over last year, whereas Asia/Pacific sales will grow 53.4 per cent to total some US$2.46 billion. Japan was expected to bring in US$1.4 billion in holiday shopping for 2001, 68 per cent more than last year, while the rest of the world will increase its holiday shopping by 90.1 per cent to tally up US$990 million in online holiday sales this year, GartnerG2 said.

Gartner, in Stamford, Conn.,