Kamis, 27 Desember 2007

Online Sales Saw Growth For Holidays (Investor's Business Daily)

Brisk buying of video games and DVDs gave online retailers a leg up this holiday. But while they didnt end up with the lump of coal that offline stores got, their sales growth likely fell short of last year.

U.S. online retail sales from Nov. 23 through Dec. 24 rose 22.4% from the year-earlier figure, MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse reported on Thursday. And Chase Paymentechs Pulse Index, which uses transaction data from 10 top online merchants, says holiday sales through Dec. 23 were up nearly 30%.

While MasterCard and Chase Paymentech dont do forecasts, eMarketer has predicted an 18.5% rise in online sales this November and December. And in its most recent report late Sunday, comScore said U.S. online sales rose 19% from Nov. 1 through Dec. 17 vs. the year-earlier figure. ComScore expects to issue updated figures on Friday.

In the 2006 holiday season, both eMarketer and comScore said U.S. online sales rose about 25%. So it appears this years increase will lag last years results.

Still, online certainly outdid offline. SpendingPulse says offline stores posted sales growth of just 2.4% from Nov. 23, Black Friday, through Christmas Eve.

For offline and online, SpendingPulse says sales of luxury goods, excluding jewelry, jumped 7.1%. It says footwear sales rose 6.1%, while consumer electronics sales, a hot category in years past, rose just 2.7%. Mens apparel sales rose by 2.3%.

Sales of womens apparel, a tough category for most retailers this year, fell by 2.4%.

The Chase Paymentech figures buoyed observers.

"(Chases) figures are phenomenal and are actually more positive than some of the other numbers reported," said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru.

Mulpuru says e-tailers felt the pressure to execute every aspect of their business perfectly during the quarter in the face of a sluggish economy and rising fuel prices. She says any lapses meant lost customers and sales.

No. 1 e-tailer Amazon.com (NasdaqGS:AMZN - News) on Wednesday said this holiday was its best ever. Though it didnt provide sales figures, the Seattle-based company said its all-time busiest day was Dec. 10, when customers ordered 5.4 million items.

Amazon said its top holiday sellers were toys, video games and books.

In toys, top sellers included Jakks Pacifics (NasdaqGS:JAKK - News) EyeClops Bionic Eye, the IlluStory Make Your Own Story Kit by Creations By You and Spinmasters Air Hogs Havoc Heli. Top sellers in video included Nintendos (Other OTC:NTDOY.PK - News) Wii player, and the "Super Mario Galaxy" and "Call of Duty 4" games. In DVD movies, top sellers included "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Planet Earth: The Complete BBC Series" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: At Worlds End."

But customer satisfaction with online retailers fell slightly from 2006, says ForeSee Results, which measures customer satisfaction. An index that tracks 40 top online retailers scored 74 on a 100-point 19cale, down from 73 a year ago.

ForeSee says this means many e-tailers lost a chance to boost customer loyalty this holiday.

Customer satisfaction is more critical online, since buyers can easily switch to another seller at the click of a mouse, says ForeSee Chief Executive Larry Freed.

Still, Freed calls this years online shopping season a success.

"In a very tough economy, a holiday season with 20% year-over-year-growth is something to be happy about," he said.

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