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Study: Rich are Surfing More

NEW YORK — The rich are doing it more often. Getting wired, that is, according to fresh figures from Internet measurement service Nielsen/Net Ratings.<br><br>The trend marks a sharp reversal of a dynamic that had prevailed since 2000, which saw...

NEW YORK — The rich are doing it more often. Getting wired, that is, according to fresh figures from Internet measurement service Nielsen/Net Ratings.

This story first appeared in the October 21, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The trend marks a sharp reversal of a dynamic that had prevailed since 2000, which saw lower-income households, or those with annual incomes of less than $50,000, gaining Internet access more rapidly than their upper-income counterparts. (The country’s average household income is $55,000, based on the 2002 U.S. Census.) It’s a change reflecting both the shaky state of the U.S. economy and the Internet’s growing availability to white-collar workers in their workplaces, noted Lisa Strand, chief analyst and director of e-commerce at Milpitas, Calif.-based NetRatings.

“A computer and online access aren’t necessities like a phone is,” Strand said. “The Internet isn’t close to saturating the low-income part of the population, but that group has had to put [certain] things on hold for a bit,” she added. “A rebound in that sector will be closely correlated with a pickup in the economy.”

Between this September and September 2001, there was a 20 percent surge in online access, either at home or at work, among people who live in households with annual incomes between $100,000 and $149,999. By comparison, there was an 11 percent increase in Internet access, among those in households with incomes ranging from $50,000 to $74,999, and just a 2 percent uptick in availability to those with earnings up to $24,999. Currently, about three times as many people go online from home than from work, but people at work tend to be more active users, Strand said.

The biggest share of online access is held by those in households with annual incomes between $50,000 and $99,999. It amounts to 30.7 percent of Net users, or roughly 37.3 million people. The second-largest share — 26.6 percent of users, or 32.3 million people — is marked by those in the $25,000 to $49,999 bracket. Those with household incomes ranging from $100,000 to $149,999 represent a significantly smaller, 12.3 percent, slice of the online audience, or 14.9 million surfers.

In another corner of cyberspace, there is growing evidence that e-tail is not a black hole, especially when teamed with effective sales promotions. A case in point: Yahoo’s “Biggest Fall Sale,” a pre-holiday promotion held Oct. 6 to 9, brought more than 1,200 e-tailers and travel services a 30 percent gain in gross sales, on average, versus the comparable four-day period a week earlier. And on a smaller scale, a new fashion e-tail site, NoHoNY.com, is slated to go live today.

The most-shopped categories during the Yahoo event included apparel and shoes; books, and home and garden. Nearly 200 e-tailers said their dollar volume soared more than fivefold during the event, versus a week earlier. Eddiebauer.com, for one, reported its sales surged more than sixfold, fueled by an online-only promotion offering all men’s and women’s sweaters at discounts of 25 to 40 percent. Washington, D.C., led the list of cities generating the most orders, followed by Boston and Cleveland.

At NoHoNY.com, founders Catherine M. Perebinossoff and Sara Rader will be mining a niche at the opposite end of the spectrum from megaportal Yahoo, offering goods from up-and-coming designers that are made in limited quantities, including some one-of-a-kind items. Among the merchandise available on the site will be accessories and apparel from Deborah Skell; accessories from Estala Gilboe; jewelry from Caroline Glemann and Hope Higbie, and handmade lamp shades from Cynthia Beebe.