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Online Retail Sales Up as Offline Sales Lag

Nearly half of retailers surveyed by comparison shopping service BizRate.com for the National Retail Federation’s Shop.org claimed online holiday sales in the Nov. 30-Dec. 13 period were up more than 35 percent from the same period a year ago.

The study, released yesterday, revealed that 88 percent of consumers surveyed are somewhat or very satisfied with their online buying experience.

This was the third installment of the 2003 eHoliday Mood Study conducted by Shop.org and BizRate.com.

Thirty-five percent of retailers claimed that a gift idea center was their most successful site feature while 29 percent said a section on suggested items was their most successful shopping tool. Product promotions, however, were the biggest draw as 39 percent of retailers voted it their best feature.

Meanwhile, the final weekend before Christmas may not have lived up to the expectations of retailers’ store divisions.

The Department of Homeland Security raised the nationwide terror alert status to Orange, the second-highest color-coded level, over the weekend, which may have curbed foot traffic in stores and malls, according to media analysts.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s largest retailer, said fewer people shopped in its stores for the second consecutive week. But shoppers spent more on average. Popular categories last week included electronics, pharmacy, toys, outerwear, girls’ apparel and pet supplies.

The Bentonville, AK, company said December sales at its U.S. stores open at least one year will reach only the lower end of its forecast for a 3 percent to 5 percent gain over the same year-ago period.

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