Sales growth soars for multichannel retailers

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Online retail spending hit $15.6 billion for the season as of Dec. 8, up 25 percent from the corresponding days in 2005, according to comScore Networks.

The survey measured consumer retail spending at U.S. Web sites for the 2006 holiday season for Nov. 1 to Dec. 8. Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore, Reston, VA, said smaller retailers are sharing in these sales increases.

"We saw a very aggressive online marketing effort from the bricks-and-mortar retailers that were well integrated and coordinated with their retail stores and which allowed them to increase sales at a faster rate than we saw for the pure-play retailers," Mr. Fulgoni said.

Though Amazon ranks first in online sales this season, seven of the 10 largest online retailers are those with bricks-and-mortar stores rather than pure-plays.

Some sites are generating sales growth surpassing 50 percent over last year. Ranking highest in growth is BestBuy.com, followed by Ticketmaster.com, Walmart.com, Apple.com and Victoriassecret.com, revealing the strength of multichannel retailers.

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for November rose 6.3 percent unadjusted over last year and 0.9 percent seasonally adjusted from October.

November figures from the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales rose 1.0 percent seasonally adjusted from October and 6.0 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

As expected, the sales surge was led by deep discounts on popular holiday categories such as electronics and apparel.

Though sales were up, customer satisfaction with the online retail experience dipped slightly from the prior week, according to the ForeSee Results weekly Holiday Online Retail Benchmark.

This survey measured satisfaction from 46,000 online shoppers and 35 retail sites. For Dec. 4-10, aggregate customer satisfaction with online retailers was 76.5 on a 100-point scale, 0.2 points lower than the previous week but nearly 2 points below the score in the same timeframe in 2005. But those who completed online purchases Dec. 4-10 had a score of 84.8, 2 points higher than the previous week.

Site visits are up this season. Nielsen//NetRatings' Holiday eShopping Index found that traffic grew 43 percent from the last week in October to the week ending Dec. 3, with toys and video games leading the race.

"The increase in online traffic highlights the continued popularity of shoppers turning to the Internet for holiday gift-giving needs, including researching before going to stores and/or purchasing online," said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, New York.
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