Post-Thanksgiving Shoppers Flock Online

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The online holiday season began with increased activity Nov. 23, the day after Thanksgiving, as 32 percent more shoppers went online than on Nov. 16, according to the Nielsen//NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce Index released yesterday.


Barring Amazon.com, department stores were the most popular online destinations the day after Thanksgiving. That traditional bricks-and-mortar brands accounted for five of the top six online retail destinations post-Thanksgiving shows that offline presence matters.


Walmart.com registered 355,011 unique at-home visitors Nov. 23, up 132.1 percent from the Friday before. Target was close behind, with 311,592 visitors, up 151.7 percent.


Kmart's BlueLight.com registered the highest jump, 226.8 percent, though with a smaller number of visitors, 227,030. Not far behind were Sears, Roebuck and Co.'s sears.com, up 72.5 percent with 219,674 visitors, and JCPenney, up 85.8 percent with 216,501 visitors.


Amazon, Seattle, had the most traffic Nov. 23, with 1.7 million visitors. That was up 32.5 percent from Nov. 16.


Nielsen//NetRatings' Internet measurement audience service collects real-time data from more than 225,000 online individuals in 29 countries.


The Thanksgiving holiday week is an important impetus for holiday shopping. This year's growth came from extensive use of promotions like free shipping and day-after-Thanksgiving special prices.


"Last year, we saw these types of promotions a bit less, but this year they're not holding back," said Lisa Strand, director and chief economist at NetRatings, Milpitas, CA. "This year, they're offering these discounts from the get-go."


Worries about the economy weigh heavily on these retailers. The National Bureau of Economic Research said yesterday that the economy slipped into recession as early as March.


"The biggest challenge this year is the state of the economy and whether the consumers will spend money," Strand said. "It ties in strongly back to the macro-economy. For most retailers, that's the biggest factor they're contending with."


Overall, 22 percent more home Internet users undertook online holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving compared with the daily average for that week's Monday-Thursday period. Last year, there was a 27 percent rise in online shopping the day after Thanksgiving.


A few reasons account for this drop in percentage growth.


"The first factor is that there are more people online this year than last year, so when you look at the percentage, it's basically reflected on a larger base, so the numbers look a lot smaller," Strand said.


A late Thanksgiving was the other factor, she said.


"People felt the need to go online a bit sooner because they had less time to place orders before the shipping deadlines for delivery on Christmas," she said.


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