Byline: Valerie Seckler

NEW YORK — Fashion might not be foremost on gift lists this holiday, given consumers’ sense of uncertainty about the economy and health and safety issues, but apparel is still expected to be a star in cyberspace for holiday.
Yet another Internet forecast, this one released Monday by Nielsen/NetRatings, anticipates apparel will be a popular gift to buy online in the coming season and predicts it will become the top-selling, small-ticket category on the Web in November and December. Internet apparel sales to consumers are estimated to reach a combined $2.4 million for that two-month period, according to the Milpitas, Calif.-based tracking service.
Online sales of entertainment products such as books, recorded music and videos are expected to rank second among the 13 small-ticket categories surveyed by N/NR, with sales of those items during the period estimated to hit $1.7 million; auction sites should reach $1.4 million; toys are estimated at $1.1 million, and computer hardware should log $973,000.
Asked what’s propelling apparel to the top of the projected sales chart, Nielsen/Net Ratings Internet analyst Dawn Brozek said, “A number of the most successful apparel sites — J.C. Penney, Lands’ End, Eddie Bauer, Victoria’s Secret — have moved a number of their catalog shoppers to the Web. In seasons past, we’ve seen strength in sales of computer [products] online, but with those areas more fully penetrated now, we see some of that spending shifting into apparel.”
Overall, N/NR projected U.S. cybershoppers will spend a combined $9.9 billion online during November and December, up 43 percent from their Internet purchases during holiday 2000, which came to $6.9 billion. The agency is further forecasting more than 106 million people will shop online this December, up 27 percent from 85 million last year. Apparel e-tail sites are expected to experience the fifth-biggest surge in traffic, up 46 percent, following chart-topper toys and games; consumer electronics; value-oriented destinations, and virtual department stores.
Meanwhile, GartnerG2, a research unit of technology consultant Gartner Group, predicted global Internet sales will tally $25.3 billion this holiday, with spending in the U.S. expected to hit $11.9 billion. About 13 percent of those surveyed by Gartner said they will likely spend less online this holiday than last, while 6 percent said they will probably spend more.