E-tailers Buoyed by Holiday Spike

The traditional kickoff of the holiday shopping season on Friday fueled a 27percent surge in online traffic from earlier in the week, according to datareleased Monday by Internet tracking firm Nielsen//NetRatings.

“Shoppers flocked to e-commerce sites the day after Thanksgiving,traditionally one of the busiest shopping days of the year forbrick-and-mortar retailers,” said NetRatings e-commerce vice president SeanKaldor. “We’re seeing the same trends on the Web.”

In preparing the Holiday E-Commerce Index, researchers collected data fromroughly 70,000 Internet users in the U.S. and measured traffic across a hostof different product categories.

Not All Rosy for Amazon

E-tail bellwether Amazon.com played asignificant part in Friday’s online shopping spike.

“A surge was seen in every e-commerce category the day after Thanksgiving,but the biggest contributor to overall growth in sheer numbers were virtualdepartment stores, led by Amazon.com,” added Kaldor.

Kaldor noted that Amazon alone accounted for more than 1.3 million onlineusers throughout the day, an increase of 36 percent compared to the rest ofthe week.

These figures could have been higher had the Seattle, Washington-basedheavyweight not experienced a service outage Friday that prevented shoppersfrom making purchases for roughly 30 minutes. Companyexecutives attributed the outage to an internal computer “glitch” and saidthere was no way to estimate the effect of the downtime on sales.

According to Amazon, more than 300,000 items were sold during the firsteight hours of the day.

Clothing a Winner

Among the categories surveyed, Nielsen//NetRatings found that apparel was thehottest e-tail sector for the day, with an overall rise of 68 percent. Landsend.com had the most dramatic increases, skyrocketing 93 percent, followed by Gap.com and Speigel.com, both of which had an over 80 percent rise in traffic.

Consumer electronics also fared well, with sites in the category jumping 46percent. CircuitCity.com led the charge, racking up a significant 126 percent increase, followed by Outpost.com and 800.com.

Brick-and-Clicks in Front

Multi-channel sites, or brick-and-clicks, also racked up impressive statisticson Friday, with traffic spiking 49 percent from earlier in the week.Pure-play e-tailers had a 26 percent increase.

Accordingly, a report released earlier this month by PC Data Online found that traditionalretailers are becoming a major force online this year. The study found thathalf of the top 20 e-tailers it ranked had an established physical presencebefore opening a Web arm, possibly signifying that consumers have moreconfidence in stores they patronize in the real world than in stores with an Internet presence only.

This scenario stands in marked contrast to last year, when online retailingwas seen as a threat to brick-and-mortars. “While the two have been battling back and forth throughout the holidays, no clear winner has yet emerged,” said Kaldor.

E-tailers Seeing Double

While industry analysts expect online holiday sales to hit upwards of US$19billion this year, the day after Thanksgiving is often seen as a barometerof the extent consumers will spend during the seasonal spurt. The day has been dubbed “Black Friday” because it is the day that retailers hope to turn red ink into black.

Yahoo! said transactions at its shopping sites doubled Friday compared tothe same day last year, while Kmart’s Bluelight.com reported a 50 to 60 percent increase in sales this past weekend over typical weekend sales.

In addition, AOL said consumers at its shopping hub, which includes Macys.com, Nordstrom.com, Sears.com and Target.com, spent more than one anda half times more this Thanksgiving week than last year at the same time.

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