Online retail sales finish holiday season strong

Online retail sales made a strong showing in the home stretch of the holiday season, a new study released Tuesday suggests.

Online sales peaked during the week ending Dec. 17, as spending for the holiday season overall nearly doubled compared with 1999 levels, a study done by PC Data Inc. and Goldman Sachs & Co. concludes. Total online holiday spending hit US$8.7 billion compared to $4.2 billion last year, during the period between the first week of November and Dec. 17.

Spending rose to $1.6 billion for the week ending Dec. 17 compared to $1.5 billion for the immediate prior week. The comparable week in 1999 brought in $878 million for online retailers.

Some online retailers reporting healthy holiday sales this week included Yahoo Inc.’s shopping services;, Kmart Corp.’s online site, and gift seller RedEnvelope Inc.

Yahoo said Monday that the order volume to Yahoo! Shopping nearly doubled in the United States during this holiday season compared to the same time last year. Outside the United States, Yahoo saw its transaction volume increase more than six times from last year’s totals, the company said in a statement. Yahoo didn’t provide actual dollar amounts. Yahoo! Shopping is available in 14 countries., meanwhile, reported that its site traffic swelled to 9.1 million users for the weeks between Nov. 1 and Dec. 17. Sales on at the online shopping site increased more than 1,060 per cent compared to the same period last year, when Kmart ran the site as, Bluelight said.

RedEnvelope said its sales rose 400 per cent over last holiday season. The San Francisco-based electronic retailer shipped approximately 150,000 packages in the month of December, it said.

Not all indicators were rosy for the final week of the holiday shopping season. Figures from Nielsen NetRatings Inc. show online shopping trips hitting 63.3 million during the week of Dec. 17, down seven per cent from 68.4 million the week before.

Media Metrix Inc. figures also suggest that traffic slowed in the final holiday shopping days. It estimated that 33.8 million [m] unique visitors visited online retail sites during the week ending Dec. 17. That is down 5.2 percent from a peak of 35.6 million during the second week of shopping that ended Dec. 3.

Goldman Sachs, in New York, can be reached at Media Metrix, based in New York, can be reached at Nielsen//NetRatings is at