E-tailers starting to see more holiday clicks

Online retailers are welcoming an increasing number of holiday shoppers, as traffic to dot-com stores grew by 12 percent last week, a study says.

Stefanie Olsen Staff writer, CNET News
Stefanie Olsen covers technology and science.
Stefanie Olsen
2 min read
Online retailers are welcoming an increasing number of holiday shoppers, as traffic to dot-com stores grew by 12 percent last week, according to a new report.

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Toys, games and apparel sites led the rise in online traffic, according to the Nielsen/NetRatings Holiday E-commerce Index study. The number of visitors to toys and games sites increased by 47 percent, compared with a 12 percent decline the week prior, the study said.

The Nielsen/NetRatings study measures visits to representative e-commerce sites by Internet visitors at home and at work.

The increased number of visitors most likely comes as a sigh of relief to online stores, many of which rely heavily on seasonal shopping, after a report earlier this week showed e-commerce activity was mostly flat during the first week of November. Stalled numbers during Nov. 1 ran in contrast with the same week during the 1999 holiday season when traffic surged, touching off early fears that this year's season would not perform as expected.

"The 12 percent rise in user visits is nearly identical to the leap in the first week of holiday traffic for 1999, so it's clear the holiday season has firmly begun, albeit one week delayed," Sean Kaldor, NetRatings vice president of e-commerce, said in a statement.

Predictions for holiday sales this season far surpass last year?s sales. Consumer spending online is expected to reach $11.6 billion this season, up from $7 billion during the same period last year, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. The New York-based research company also projects that 35 million people in the United States will purchase gifts online this holiday season, compared with 20 million who shopped online last year.

About 6.3 million of that number will spend more than 50 percent of their holiday budget online--a dramatic increase from 1999 when just 1.6 million consumers spent the majority of their holiday budget shopping on the Web, according to Jupiter estimates.

Traffic to consumer electronics sites was up 17 percent and traffic to online department stores--including Amazon.com, Target.com and Walmart.com--grew 12 percent.

Apparel sites are a surprise hit this year. Questions about consumer interest in buying clothing sight unseen have dampened growth expectations this year, Kaldor said, but apparel e-tailers are proving doubters wrong with 43 percent growth last week. Spiegel.com and VictoriasSecret.com are "racing neck and neck for the fastest growing apparel site title," he said.

Visitors to books, music and video retail sites grew by 9 percent. But traffic to computer hardware sites dipped last week with a 13 percent decline. Traffic to specialty gifts sites also dropped 10 percent last week, after a surge of 35 percent in the first week of November.

Nielsen/NetRatings measured traffic at e-commerce sites for the week ending Nov. 12.