Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — With holiday shopping in full swing, it’s become clear that sales are growing more slowly online (and elsewhere) this year than last. But a blast of shopping during the first week of December could portend at least a partial pickup in business on the Web as the season heads into the home stretch, after a lackluster November.
To wit: A weekly eSpending index determined that a steadily expanding share of online Americans are both transacting purchases on the Web as the holiday season proceeds and finding they are satisfied with those experiences. “Roughly 25 percent of shoppers report being more satisfied with their online holiday shopping experience this year, compared with last year,” noted Lori Iventosch-James, Harris Interactive’s director of e-commerce research.
During the week ended Dec. 7, for instance, 20 percent of connected Americans bought something online, up from 18 percent the week ended Nov. 30; 16 percent from the week ended Nov. 23, and 12 percent from the week ended Nov. 16, according to the eSpending data disclosed Monday by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings.
Meanwhile, 45 percent of U.S. cybershoppers surveyed for that eSpending report said they were “very satisfied” with their online shopping experience during the week ended Dec. 7, compared with the 37 percent who said so during each of the two previous weeks, and the 32 percent who claimed they were “very satisfied” with Internet shopping the week ended Nov. 16.
Ahead of that December action, online sales climbed 36 percent in November, to reach $4.9 billion, up from sales of $3.6 billion in October, but off 24 percent from $6.4 billion in November 2000, according to Internet consultant Forrester Research, which released its monthly online retail index Monday in conjunction with market researcher Greenfield Online. The November index comes four days after another report from N/NR, which capped November online business-to-consumer growth at 10 percent, for a total of $5.3 billion. (Both Forrester and N/NR included travel services in their totals.)
Apparel Web sites rang up the biggest volume overall among 15 small-ticket categories canvassed for Forrester’s November index, realizing sales of $405.4 million, up 43 percent from sales of $284 million in October. Not surprisingly, apparel volume was followed by toys and video games ($306.3 million). Jewelry sales online ranked eighth among small-ticket sectors in November, with volume of $116.8 million; health and beauty was ninth ($116.1 million), and footwear, 11th ($100 million.)
“People shifted their attention to purchasing holiday gifts in November, [from the] zero-percent financing deals that got them to shop offline in October,” observed Forrester analyst Christopher M. Kelley. “People went online to seek out the best deals, in an attempt to stretch their dollars.”
Forrester found 16.8 million U.S. households shopped the Internet in November, up 23 percent from 13.7 million in October. Cybershoppers spent an average of $293.28 online in November, compared with $264.86 a month earlier. And the $4.9 million spent by U.S. consumers on the Web in November did mark the Internet’s largest monthly B2C volume recorded by Forrester this year, despite its falloff from year-ago levels.

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