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Women Driving Cyber Growth

NEW YORK — Women now account for nearly two-thirds, or 61 percent, of online purchasers and are the primary engine powering holiday business in cyberspace — where the outlook for the season is bullish and projections are being revised...

NEW YORK — Women now account for nearly two-thirds, or 61 percent, of online purchasers and are the primary engine powering holiday business in cyberspace — where the outlook for the season is bullish and projections are being revised upward.

That’s the picture portrayed by a handful of surveys released this week, one from Shop.org and BizRate.com, another via comScore Networks, and a third from Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings.

“All indications are that records keep getting broken and forecasts keep getting brighter,” observed Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, which has just released the second of its four 2002 Online Holiday Mood Studies. “The online purchasers we’ve sampled are indicating they will shift some holiday buying online from both stores and catalogs.” The poll of approximately 3,000 online buyers, taken Dec. 2-3, found 35 percent expect to spend more online this holiday, while 47 percent plan to spend less in catalogs, and 46 percent anticipate spending less in stores. For purposes of the study, an online buyer was defined as anyone who has made a purchase on the Internet in the past year; holiday includes November and December.

Robust results were clearly reflected in comScore’s new holiday figures, which showed online purchases by consumers during the week ended Dec. 6 were $2 billion, setting a weekly spending record for the Internet and reflecting 34 percent growth versus the week after Thanksgiving in 2001.

“Holiday e-commerce spending is gathering momentum as retailers enter the most intensive weeks of the holiday shopping season,” comScore vice president Michelle David Adams said. “While travel spending was the dominant force pushing e-commerce higher in the ‘off-season,’ nontravel sales have become the [holiday] force, as consumers take advantage of the Internet’s convenience, competitive pricing and wide product selection.”

Also significant, among Shop.org’s findings, are the growing proportion of women buyers on the ’Net, as women tend to control household budgets and buy more apparel than men. The 61 percent share of buyers in cyberspace now represented by women marks increases of 5 and 22 percentage points, respectively, over the 56 percent share they controlled a year ago, and the 39 percent share they owned back in 1998.

As a result, online sales of apparel are continuing to flourish. Consumers’ apparel purchases online, transacted from Nov. 1 through Dec. 9, totaled $785.76 million, up 10 percent over the prior-year period, said a spokeswoman for BizRate.com, which surveyed 56 e-tailers, in addition to polling consumers, for its holiday mood study. In addition, comScore data, based on a representative cross-section of 1.5 million shoppers’ online transactions, shows combined sales of apparel and accessories from Nov. 8 through Dec. 6 were $902 million, up 26 percent from a year ago. That made apparel the nontravel category with the largest dollar volume last week, with home and garden a distant second at $328 million. Home and garden was the fastest-growing nontravel sector, however, advancing at a rate of 72 percent versus a year ago. Apparel’s 26 percent growth rate placed it eighth of 10 categories tracked.

Online sales to consumers for the full month of November hit $6.2 billion, up 22 percent from sales of $5.1 billion a year earlier, according to this week’s eSpending Report from Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive, and Nielsen/NetRatings. EBay was the busiest nontravel e-commerce site last month, among users at home, luring nearly 12 million visitors, followed by Amazon.com, with 10.2 million, and Yahoo Shopping, with 7.4 million. “EBay has become more than just an auction house,” noted Patrick Thomas, senior Internet analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. “EBay’s strategy to promote gift items has made a significant contribution to its holiday traffic.”

“The results of the 2002 online holiday season through November are very encouraging,” BizRate president and chief executive Chuck Davis said in a statement. “Many of these positive results can be attributed to the fact that online retailers understand the most efficient means of reaching customers with offers.”