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Amazon, eBay Jockey for Holiday E-Commerce Lead

Holiday shoppers, many of them bargain hunters, spent $6.2 billion in November, up 22 percent from last November, according to a new online spending report by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen//NetRatings.

Forty percent surveyed said price swayed their decision to shop online. Wider selection and product comparison were other key factors.

EBay upstaged Amazon as the top online shopping destination for the week ending Dec. 1 in the books, music and video/DVD categories. Nielsen//NetRatings said eBay attracted a unique audience of 11.98 million visitors vs. Amazon's 10.24 million. Yahoo Shopping drew 7.39 million visitors and MSN Shopping 3.13 million.

“I do think with this holiday season, a lot of people are being very price-conscious, and … that eBay really has over the last three years established a considerably loyal user base and become a pretty strong player in the 2002 holiday season,” said Patrick Thomas, senior analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, New York.

Still, Amazon had a commanding lead in the number of books, music CDs and video/DVDs bought online in an average week in November. The Seattle retailer has a 35.2 percent share this year compared with eBay and its Half.com arm at 10.6 percent. But Amazon's share is down from 36.9 percent last year while eBay's share last year was 4.6 percent.

On the same note, a GartnerG2 study said consumers are buying the same types of items for the holidays that they buy year-round online: toys, games and video games.

“What they're buying online is what we call the sweet spot of the Internet — the things that are either shrink-wrapped media products or clothing, but mainly the kinds of clothing that people are used to buying from catalog retailers and the like,” said David Schehr, research director at GartnerG2, Stamford, CT.

This reinforces how well consumers today understand the strengths of the Internet, a September survey of 1,317 U.S. adults said.

GartnerG2 predicts North American consumers will spend $15.7 billion online this holiday season, up 32.1 percent over the same time last year. Worldwide online holiday sales will touch $38.2 billion, up 48.4 percent.

Again, Amazon and eBay are expected to be large beneficiaries of holiday e-commerce. They were among the four sites out of 70 cited by respondents as online-only brands they plan to shop with, showing the preference for multichannel retailers and the options they offer.

GartnerG2 said Amazon was mentioned by 22 percent of those surveyed while eBay was preferred by 11 percent. Amazon's total rises to 28 percent if Toysrus.com and circuitcity.com, sites run by Amazon, are included.

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