Holiday E-Shopping Surges, But Traffic Below 2000 Levels

Online shopping traffic surged more than 20 percent the day after Thanksgiving, but fell short of last year’s busiest shopping day, according to a report released Monday by Nielsen//NetRatings (Nasdaq: NTRT).

Visits to online stores, rose 22 percent on Friday compared to the average of the rest of the week leading up to Thanksgiving, driven largely by gains for what NetRatings labels “virtual department stores” such as Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN).

Last year, traffic on what retailers often refer to as “Black Friday” was even stronger, up 27 percent.

“For e-tailers, the Thanksgiving holiday week is critical to getting holidayshopping on track,” said Sean Kaldor, vice president of analytical services at New York City-based NetRatings.

Wildcard Factors

“These results suggest that Friday’s uptick was not as pronounced as it wasa year ago,” Kaldor said. This year, traffic was up 37 percent compared to the same day a week before, a fact that “sets favorable expectations for the week as a whole.”

E-tailers and analysts are busy reading tea leaves as one of the most uncertain holiday shopping seasons gets under way. While most predictions call for a 10 percent growth in this season’s e-commerce over last year’s holiday take, analysts readily admit that consumer confidence and the weakening economy are wildcard factors.

Amazon on Top

According to NetRatings, online department stores were the clear winners last week, seeing the largest gains in traffic. Amazon saw traffic grow 33 percent to 1.7 million visitors, the busiest shopping site on the Web on Friday. Wal-Mart.com (NYSE: WMT) saw a 132 percent spike and Target.com (NYSE:TGT) grew 152 percent.

“The Web has not lost its incredible power to attract consumers interested in wide selection, low prices and convenient shopping, particularly in the face of crowded malls,” Kaldor said.

Other big gainers were Kmart’s BlueLight.com, (NYSE: KM) which saw 227,000 shoppers — up 227 percent; Sears.com, which grew traffic 73 percent; and JCPenney.com, which was up 86 percent.

Kaldor noted that among the top department stores on the Web, only Amazon lacks a brick-and-mortar presence. The brick-and-click combination “has proven to be a successful online formula for virtual department stores,” he said.

Portals Busy

As NetRatings gauged Web-wide changes in traffic, specific Internet properties were quick to report sharp gains of their own.

Yahoo! (Nasdaq: YHOO) said Monday that it saw traffic increase 75 percent over 2000 levels during the three days after Thanksgiving. Yahoo! said many shoppers were scouring its site for specific items, with video game players taking the top three slots.

“We have had a tremendous amount of momentum leading into the holiday shopping season,” said Rob Solomon, vice president and general manager of Yahoo! Shopping.

Meanwhile, MSN said the number of transactions on its eShop network will more than double this holiday season after a strong start in recent weeks.

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