Report: Amazon Smashed E-tail Competition in January

Amazon.com remained the top online retailerin January with roughly 2.3 million projected buyers — more than threetimes that of nearest competitor Barnesandnoble.com — according to a report releasedWednesday by market research firm PCData.

While Amazon also managed to double the number of shoppers it registered inJanuary 2000, the figure was half of the company’s peak activity in December.The study found, however, that the drop was symptomatic of the wider slide inonline buying following the crush of the holiday shopping season.

Coming in a distant second on PC Data’s list of the top 20 e-tailers wasBarnesandnoble.com, with 638,000 projected buyers for the month. Like Amazon,the number was almost double from January 2000, but down from itsDecember high.

Last week, Barnesandnoble.com posted a fourth-quarter loss ofUS$143.5 million, significantly greater than its loss of $38.3million in the same period a year earlier. The company also announced plans to cut 350 jobs, or 16 percent of its workforce.

The Amazing Retailer

The strong January showing should come as a welcome dose of good news for Amazon. The Seattle, Washington-based Internet bellwether has spent the past couple of weeks trying toemerge from the shadows of its largest layoffs to date.

In addition to the layoffs, the company has slashed its sales forecasts and is facing questions about its decision to start chasing earnings instead of further expansion.

Amazon has said that it expects to reach operatingprofitability by the end of 2001, driven in part by increases in itscustomer base. The company added nearly 13 million new customers last year.

“Remove Amazon.com from the equation and you had a very tight, competitivemarketplace in January among top e-tail sites,” said PC Data director ofresearch and analysis John Megahed.

Next in Line

Rounding out the top five top e-tailers were Ticketmaster.com with 636,000projected buyers, Half.com with 567,000 projected buyers and JCPenney.comwith 545,000 projected buyers.

The newcomer on PC Data’s list was ShopIntuit.com, which sells popularfinancial management software such as Turbo Tax. ShopIntuit.com claimed theNo. 9 spot with 245,000 projected buyers in January.

“The emergence of Quicken’s ShopIntuit.com among the top 10 demonstratesthat there is room on the Web for new e-commerce faces, especially in lightof demand for a popular, seasonal product,” said Megahed.

Indeed, a study released earlier this week by Forrester Research projectedthat 6 million U.S. households will prepare tax returns online this year,up from 2 million last year. The report attributed the forecasted increaseto a combination of better online tax and financial service offerings andthe growing comfort level of online users toward electronically assisted taxpreparation.

Jumping Ahead

PC Data also said that a number of e-tailers made “impressive jumps” intoJanuary’s Top 20 list, including Staples.com at No. 12, up from No. 30 lastmonth with 186,000 projected buyers.

Another gainer was CyberRebate.com, which came in at No. 13, up from No. 24, with 185,000 projected buyers. Victoriasecret.com also did well, hitting the No. 17 spot, up from No. 34, with 133,000 projected buyers.

To compile its data, PC Data Online tracked unique visitors to the top 20e-tail sites through software based on buying activity and traffic from morethan 120,000 U.S. home Internet users. The research firm did not include shopping domainsthat provide free downloads, product reviews or purchasing incentives, orother types of e-commerce sites, such as auction, travel reservation orfinancial service sites.

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