Will the Real Holiday Shopping Number Please Stand Up?

Research firms agree that online retail sales during the recent holiday season were the highest ever, but among the 14 researchers offering projections for the period, no two could agree on a number.

New York-based eMarketer reports that consumers spent $12.5 billion online during the 2000 4Q holiday shopping season, a 71% increase over the $7.3 billion spent online during the 1999 holidays.

“The research numbers are all over the map,” says Geoffrey Ramsey, CEO of eMarketer, noting the projections of numerous research firms ranged from a low of $6 billion to a high of $13.2 billion.

Ramsey stressed the reason for the wide disparity in projections is partly due to different time periods being measured. While some researchers such as eMarketer measure online holiday sales based on the entire 4Q, others look at shorter time-frames, such as the weeks between November-December or the last five weeks through December 31.

“At the end of the day, there is no standard, agreed upon measure of e-commerce activity,” added Ramsey. However, eMarketer points out that PC Data, which uses a weekly tracking system and survey methodology to approximate “actual” holiday sales, reported a figure of $13.2 billion for the 4Q period.

1Q Outlook - 2001

“The first quarter outlook is mildly promising for online retail activity,” Ramsey noted, adding that “although the overall economy will have a dampening effect on online sales this year an increasing percentage of retail dollars will migrate to the web.”

eMarketer estimates $13.5 billion will be spent online during the first 3 months, up from $8.3 billion in the same quarter of 2000 and an 8% increase from the previous quarter. e-Commerce sales will increase by 57% in 2001 to $65.9 billion as compared to 2000, when $42 billion was spent online.

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