According to the holiday e-spending report from Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings, US online consumers blew $23.2bn in the run-up to Christmas - a rise of 25 per cent from a year ago. Most of the cash went on clothing, toys, video games and consumer electronics, while items like jewellery, flowers and computer gear made big gains.
"Online shopping contributed significantly to overall 2004 holiday sales by attracting consumers through a broad product selection," said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. "Consumers have become accustomed to purchasing online over the years and look to the internet to find comprehensive product information, competitive prices and easy gift delivery, allowing them to have more time to spend on other holiday activities."
The report said that US online consumers spent some $3.8bn on clothing and $2.5bn on toys and games. Some $2.3bn was spent on consumer electronics during the 1 November to 26 December period.
Meanwhile, US online consumers spent $1.9bn on jewellery, or 113 per cent more than a year ago. Online sales of flowers were up 59 per cent to $530m, while internet sales of computer equipment grew by 30 per cent to $2.1bn.
The Nielsen survey also revealed that about 30 pe rcent of US e-shoppers felt this year's online shopping experience was better than last year's. Over a third said that they headed to the web for Christmas shopping in order to avoid the crowds, while an additional 36 per cent claimed that the web offers better prices than the high street.
Other reports released in the days after Christmas have also shown big rises in online spending, although there is dispute over how much was actually spent. ComScore Networks said that this year's sales were up 29 per cent, but said that sales reached only $14.8bn in the near-two-month period.
"The late surge in consumer spending that was widely observed at offline retail outlets came to benefit online retailers in an unprecedented way," commented Dan Hess, senior vice president, comScore Networks, referring to the surge in consumer spending just days before Christmas, benefiting firms like Wal-Mart and K-Mart. "This trend shift has boosted the holiday season to become one of the strongest on record."