Online holiday sales slow in US

Traffic to online commerce sites peaked 12 December and has slowed since. The reason: Concern about delivery by Christmas

It looks like the online shopping spree may be over -- at least for the holiday season.

New data from Nielsen/NetRatings shows that traffic to e-commerce sites has tapered off since 12 December, indicating that shoppers have either finished their present-buying or resorted to the real world in their quest for last-minute gifts.

The highest traffic day this Christmas season was 12 December. During that week, more than 17 million unique visitors went to e-commerce sites. That figure dropped 3.8 percent the following week to 16.4 million people.

Delivery times were a likely cause for the early peak in Web shopping. Many sites stopped guaranteeing Christmas delivery around the middle of the month. "Cybershoppers in 1999 tend not to be huge procrastinators," NetRatings director Peggy O'Neill said in a release.

Computer store traffic increases While traffic to computer hardware stores, auction sites, and comparison shopping sites rose, online toy stores and malls saw their customer volumes decrease, the study found. And O'Neill noted that some of the traffic to computer stores might have been from consumers looking for Y2K information.

Holiday shoppers are expected to spend around $6bn (£3.7bn) online, according to Jupiter Communications, almost double the amount they spent online last year. While most companies have yet to release sales figures, judging by traffic, Amazon.com appears to be the big winner. The online retailer has topped Media Metrix's rankings of e-commerce sites each week since Thanksgiving, and has pulled in more than 5.7 million unique visitors between 22 November and 12 December.

Other top sites include online auctioneer eBay; toy stores eToys.com and Toysrus.com; and Buy.com, an online department store.

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See also: the e-commerce special.