Study: Shoppers Return to Retail Sites as War Interest Subsides

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If online audience measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings' numbers released yesterday are right, it's back to online shopping for war-weary U.S. consumers.


Traffic to major retail sites rose during the week ending March 30 after a dip in the prior week when the war with Iraq began. The surge was attributed to a return to a more regular daily life as well as new spring sales and promotions posted online.


"It's both a growth and rebound to e-commerce sites at the same time," said Lisa Strand, director and chief analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, Milpitas, CA.


Sites of discounters and specialty retailers saw the most traffic. Tupperware.com saw its unique audience jump 120 percent to 404,000 visitors for the week ending March 30 from 184,000 in the week before. Its Tupperware Spring Savings Event was the key attraction. Kohls.com saw its unique audience rise 29 percent to 423,000 visitors for the week ending March 30 vs. 329,000 on the prior seven days.


Close behind in terms of percentage growth were Bedbathandbeyond.com and macys.com, up 25 percent each to 192,000 and 227,000 visitors, respectively, for the week ending March 30. Most heavily trafficked for both sites were the gift registry pages, understandable given the upcoming wedding season.


Similarly, traffic on walmart.com rose 24 percent to 1.36 million visitors for the week ending March 30 compared with 1.09 million for the week through March 23.


In other sites, Nordstrom.com was up 18 percent to 369,000 visitors, and RadioShack.com and Sears.com also were 16 percent higher at 179,000 and 892,000 shoppers, respectively.


Rounding out the top 10, staples.com and samsclub.com were up 15 percent to 349,000 and 326,000 visitors for the week ending March 30.


"Given the most recent feeds of data, it's clear that people are coming back to make their purchases online, and e-tailers should be gearing for Mother's Day and Graduation Day," Strand said. Easter draws few online shoppers except in flowers and gifts, she said.


While monitoring retailer and manufacturer sites, Nielsen//NetRatings also cast its eye on controversial Arab broadcaster Al Jazeera's Web site.


Traffic to aljazeera.net rose 55 percent at home in the week ending March 30. Thirty-two percent of the 391,000 visitors to the site logged onto the recently launched English-language version at english.aljazeera.net. In addition, aljazeera.net recorded 463,000 unique visitors at work. Forty-nine percent of this audience visited the English version site.


Overall, however, Nielsen//NetRatings' tracking indicates U.S. consumers' ardor for online news of the war is steadily decreasing after the initial obsession when the conflict unfolded.


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