Surveys: holiday online spending doubles this year

Although actual dollar amounts differ, the results of surveys released this week indicate that holiday online spending nearly doubled compared to last year.

Today, an online retail marketplace in Los Angeles, said that online holiday sales topped US$6 billion for the period between Nov. 20 and Dec. 26. BizRate said that figure represents a 60 per cent increase over the same period last year.

“Last year the story was how consumers were stung by e-tailers’ poor planning,” said Chuck Davis, Biz Rate’s president and CEO, in a statement. “This year consumers are the winners because e-tailers sat up, listened and met expectations.”

Yesterday, Forrester Research Inc. in Cambridge, Mass., said in a statement that despite the demise of many dot-com companies, holiday online shopping this year closed out at an estimated $10 billion, double last season’s spending.

While increased online holiday spending is good news for most companies, for others, like online toy retailer eToys Inc. in Los Angeles, it may be too little, too late. Etoys announced last week that it would miss its quarterly earnings by nearly half and that it was likely to run out of money by March.

“In general, the consensus is that for [most companies] online spending is very healthy and the indication is that it will not stop anytime soon. However, the results for eToys were not good enough,” said Cameron Meierhoefer, an analyst at Reston, Va.-based PC Data Inc., which, along with Goldman Sachs in New York, released a joint study on holiday online spending earlier this week.

According to the study, online holiday shopping peaked during the week of Dec. 17 while overall holiday spending was $8.7 billion since the first week of November. That marks a 108 per cent increase over the $4.2 billion online shoppers spent during the same period in 1999. From Dec. 18-23, PC Data and Goldman Sachs surveyed 2,823 home-based Internet users about their buying practices during the week of Dec. 11-17.

The survey also found that online consumers continued to increase spending to $1.6 billion during the week ending Dec. 17, up slightly from the previous week’s $1.5 billion. During the same period in 1999, shoppers spent $878 million online.

However, another survey released last week by Nielsen/NetRatings in New York indicated that holiday shopping actually peaked during the week ending Dec. 10 – spiking to the season’s all-time high of 68.4 million shipping trips – and dropped seven per cent to 63.3 million trips during the week ending Dec. 17.