Online Holiday Shoppers Spent Over $30 Bln

According to the fifth annual Holiday eSpending Report (press release PDF) compiled by Goldman Sachs, Nielsen/NetRatings, and Harris Interactive, online holiday shopping between October 29 and December 23, 2005, totalled $30.1 billion, up 30 percent from the 2004 holiday season. The leading purchase are was apparel and clothing with a total of $5.3 billion, although computer hardware/peripherals and consumer electronics tied for a close second at $4.8 billion apiece.

The holiday season final figure slightly outpaced Nielsen/NetRatings preliminary guesses at total holiday spending, which predicted an overall 25 percent increase in online spending over 2004, possibly due to last-minute buying rushes as the holidays loomed closer.

The eSpending Report is conducted every week by randomly inviting over 1,000 adult members of the Harris Interactive online panel to participate in online surveys. The 2005 holiday survey began on October 29, 2005, and, over 8 weeks, gathered responses from over 8,600 online adult consumers. Data were weighted (in an unspecified manner) to be more representative of the total U.S. online population, and claims, overall, to have a 95 percent change of having a sampling error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, although some sub-categories would have higher probabilities of sampling errors.

Although consumer electronics and computer gear categories showed strong growth, video games and toys saw a 9 percent year-to-year drop in overall online sales revenue, the only broad category to decline.

Not surprisingly, online consumers also showed a continued shift towards online buying, giving online vendors a 10 percent boost compared to 2002, while delivering retail stores a 10 percent drop from the same year. Conversely, online adults till seem OK with catalogs, giving them only a 1 percent downtick from 2002.

Harris Interactive’s online shoppers also seem to be a pleased and happy bunch, with 64 percent of online shoppers reporting feeling somewhat or very satisfied with their holiday purchase experiences (compared to 59 percent in 2002), although their satisfaction level is reported as an overall measure, rather than being broken down into online, catalog, and retail segments. For all we know, they might hate online shopping and love retail stores, but it seems unlikely. Nielsen/NetRatings senior retail analyst Heather Dougherty points out, “The consistently high level of satisfaction each year increases the future expectations for online sales. More consumers are taking advantage of the benefits of e-commerce to avoid holiday crowds and purchase competitively priced gifts. Many of the free shipping promotions help level the playing field among the sales channels, which elevates satisfaction amongst online shoppers.”

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