Ho! Ho! Ho! Let the holiday sales begin

Last week's worries over sluggish online sales were laid to rest as new figures show a big jump in e-commerce traffic this week.

Traffic to e-commerce Web sites rose last week, an indication that earlier sluggishness may have been an aberration.

Visits to e-commerce Web sites in the Nielsen/NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index rose 12 percent for the week of Nov. 12 from the previous week, the firm said Thursday. The news is a welcome indication that the holiday online shopping season has begun, if patterns from last year hold.

Last week's numbers for the NetRatings index showed zero week-to-week growth, a worrisome development for e-retailers looking to the holiday shopping season as a possible reprieve from the dot-com carnage of the past few months. The survey also cast doubt on projections that online shoppers this year would spend more than ever.

Jupiter Research has predicted that 35 million people in the United States will shop online this season, up from 20 million last year. Jupiter also projects that consumer spending online will grow to $11.6 billion from $7 billion last year.

This week's traffic increase mirrors the 12 percent rise in traffic at the beginning of last year's holiday season. The holiday uptick began one week earlier last year, according to Sean Kaldor, vice president of e-commerce at NetRatings.

NetRatings measures weekly traffic fluctuations for several sites in a variety of categories, most of which showed higher traffic for the week ended Nov. 12. Online toy stores received 47 percent more traffic than last week, when the numbers were down 12 percent from the previous week.

Apparel e-retailers saw 43 percent more traffic than the previous week, when visits were up just 5 percent. Consumer electronics, online department stores, bookstores, and music and video e-retailers all saw modest traffic improvements from the previous week as well.

Discount Web sites, online computer stores and specialty gifts continued to see lower traffic week-to-week.


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