Women boost AOL’s 2001 online sales

America Online Inc. (AOL) reported Wednesday that its members spent record amounts shopping online last year, aided by brisk holiday sales and a growing legion of female shoppers.

Members spent US$33 billion on AOL during 2001, 67 per cent more than in the previous year, the company said. Online holiday purchases totalled $7.2 billion alone, marking a record fourth quarter for the company. During the last quarter of the year, AOL members spent some $11 billion online, 72 per cent more than in the same quarter of 2000.

Women’s and teens’ apparel led 2001 sales, aided by the fact that 64 per cent of all AOL’s online shoppers are female, AOL reported. The majority of female shoppers underscores how AOL is paralleling the offline retail market, said AOL spokeswoman Lisa Gibby, who added that the company is doing more to cater to this female audience.

The company launched an online clearance centre in the fourth quarter of last year offering discounts of 30 to 80 per cent on various items, Gibby said, and also featured many female-oriented products on the company’s “Deal of the Day” section.

AOL also reported sales of popular holiday goodies including DVDs (digital versatile discs), digital cameras and game consoles such as PlayStation 2 and GameCube, mirroring offline big sellers.

The mammoth Internet service provider (ISP) wasn’t the only one delivering whopping e-commerce figures for last year, as Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp.’s MSN Network also reported banner holiday sales. Yahoo said last week that it had an 86 per cent increase in online holiday sales volume for 2001 over the previous year, while MSN said it experienced a 106 per cent increase. Yahoo reported fourth quarter sales of $10.3 billion, compared to MSN’s $5.6 billion in sales.

Still, AOL’s legion of members, now totalling 33 million, proved to be serious online shoppers with 79 per cent of members shopping online in the last six months, while 91 per cent said that they plan to do more online shopping in the next six months, according to AOL.

AOL Time Warner, in New York, can be reached at