Internet Merchants Report Strong Black Friday

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A significant percentage of shoppers apparently stayed in their slippers the day after Thanksgiving and made their Black Friday purchases online.


America Online yesterday reported that its members spent $1.09 billion online from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1, a 26 percent rise over the same period last year.


AOL claimed that according to preliminary estimates, 4 million AOL members shopped online last week, spending an average of $269 each. AOL also said that its members who shopped during Thanksgiving week estimated they made 80 percent of their purchases online that week, citing convenience and a way to beat crowds.


BizRate.com, a company that claims to monitor online sales using point-of-sale and fulfillment surveys of customers of 2,000 retailers, said that shoppers spent $234.2 million online Nov. 29, up 61 percent from Nov. 23, 2001, which was last year's Black Friday.


BizRate reported that online sales from Nov. 1 to Nov. 29 were $5.4 billion, up 37 percent from the same period last year. BizRate claimed this is particularly impressive because Black Friday fell six days earlier last year, making the online shopping season six days longer.


However, it should be noted that Internet and catalog mail-order sales were unusually sluggish last holiday season because many consumers feared anthrax contamination in the U.S. postal system.


BizRate predicts that Monday, Dec. 9, will be this year's peak online shopping day with sales of $387.7 million. Last year, BizRate said, the peak shopping day online was Dec. 10 with sales of $253.8 million.


Close in line with BizRate's $5.4 billion online sales estimates for Nov. 1-29 was an eSpending Report from Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings that estimates U.S. consumers spent more than $4.5 billion online in the first three weeks of November.


Online shoppers spent in excess of $1 billion more this year than the first three weeks of November 2001, the eSpending Report determined. The report, which tallies the results of weekly surveys of 750 online shoppers, also determined that online spending per person rose to nearly $88 in the week ending Nov. 22, a 22 percent increase over the previous week, and an 8 percent rise over the same period last year. Survey respondents said they have allocated 19 percent of their budgets for online purchases, compared with 16 percent last year.


Meanwhile, online audience measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings reported yesterday that 18 percent more Internet users shopped online Nov. 29 compared with the daily average for the four preceding days.


The day after Thanksgiving is often called Black Friday because it is legendarily when retailers' books move into black for the year. It is also the official start of the U.S. holiday shopping season.


Virtual department stores such as Wal-Mart are the leading category in terms of unique visitors this year, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, drawing nearly 3.2 million visitors Nov. 29, up 51 percent from Nov. 22. Shopping aggregators such as DealTime.com came in second, drawing 2.5 million unique visitors Nov. 29, a 47 percent boost over Nov. 22.


Consumer electronics sites came in third, drawing 838,000 shoppers on Black Friday, a 111 percent rise over Nov. 22. Categories Nos. 4 and 5 were value-oriented sites and toy and game sites, drawing 737,000 and 603,000 unique visitors on Nov. 29, respectively, Nielsen//NetRatings said.


Bolstering claims of a solid start to the online holiday shopping season was Sharper Image Corp. reporting yesterday that Internet orders in the three days after Thanksgiving rose 81 percent over the same period last year.


"Our Internet orders were truly exceptional," Richard Thalheimer, chairman/CEO, Sharper Image, San Francisco, said in a statement.


Online luggage and backpack retailer eBags.com reported Black Friday sales this year were 96.4 percent higher than the Friday after Thanksgiving last year.


"It was a great, great Friday for us," said Peter Cobb, co-founder and vice president of marketing at eBags, Denver.


Amazon.com said yesterday that aggressive discounting and rebates resulted in November cell phone sales that are more than four times higher than the same period last year. Amazon also reported that plummeting DVD player prices have resulted in unit sales for November up 70 percent over the same period last year. Five of the 10 best-selling items on Amazon.com are DVDs.


In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive on Amazon.com's behalf, 85 percent of consumers said they were unaware they have six fewer holiday shopping days this year, the online retailer reported.


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