Roundup of Holiday Sales
By Noelle Buoncristiano
E-commerce continues to register strong growth metrics. Indeed, online holiday shoppers spent a record $18.5 billion this year, according to the eSpending Report from Goldman, Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings. This was a 35 percent increase over the $13.7 billion spent in 2002.
Purchases made with Visa debit and credit cards registered a whopping $97.9 billion during the holiday season. And Visa reported that online purchases alone increased almost 50 percent, with a total dollar volume exceeding $7.6 billion.
Shopping.com, an online comparison-shopping service, helped a record 76 million holiday shoppers, an 81 percent increase in traffic over 2002.
The good news wasn't reserved just for e-commerce. MasterCard Advisors, a division of MasterCard International, reported catalog and Internet sales were up 6.5 percent from last year.
Interestingly, luxury goods were clear winners this past holiday. According to The New York Times, retailers cited cashmere apparel, and diamond and gold watches as strong sellers.
Several catalogers reported robust holiday seasons. J.C. Penney's catalog and online sales, for example, increased 5.6 percent, which was above plan. Catalog sales were led by holiday-gift merchandise and specialty books. Internet sales increased more than 45 percent in December and year to date.
Levenger's online holiday sales increased 22 percent, and the e-commerce channel accounted for more than 40 percent of the cataloger's 2003 orders. "Consumers don't want to talk to a person," says Tracy Lamb, director of marketing. "[Customer surveys show] they want to shop online."
Levenger also recorded a 5 percent increase in catalog sales. And although that was below plan, the company did enjoy higher average orders this year.
Fruit cataloger Cushman's reported a significant sales increase of 40 percent. "The fall [season] was slightly behind projection, but December made up for it all," says Eileen Schlagenhaft, catalog marketing director. "We ended the holiday season above projection." Cushman's also enjoyed a 3.5 percent increase in average order size.