Online Holiday Sales: A Round-Up of Reports

03 January 2001

A handful of online-only giants (notably Amazon and Yahoo! plus most of the ‘clicks and mortar’ retailers) enjoyed soaring sales in the run-up to the holiday period. Whether any were also sufficiently démodé to post a profit went unrevealed!

GLOBAL saw worldwide sales soar during the pre-Christmas period from 20 million items to 35 million.

Yahoo! reported that sales growth had increased six-fold in the fourteen countries outside the US in which it trades.

 Search engine reported that sales for internet-only retailers doubled, whereas internet shopping at sites which also have bricks and mortar outlets have roughly tripled.


 Online holiday shopping peaked during the week of December 17 while overall spending almost doubled from 1999 levels, according to the latest study from Goldman Sachs and PC Data. The report shows online holiday buying hitting an aggregated $8.7 billion since the first week of November, a 108% increase over the $4.2 billion spent during the same period last year. The latest figures indicate an increase in weekly spend to $1.6 billion during week ending December 17th, up slightly over the previous week’s $1.5 billion. Year-on-year this compares with $878 million. The 2000 holiday period also saw online sales surging from early November, compared with early December in 1999.

 But according to Media Metrix’s Online Shopping Index (which aggregates web visitors from both home and work to nearly 400 retail sites and 18 retail subcategories), online shopping fell more than 10% percent in the week ended December 24 from the peak during week ended December 3. The exception was in the flowers, gifts and greetings category, which increased 45%. Media Metrix also records that a massive 31.8 million unique visitors visited online retail sites during the week prior to Christmas, a decrease of 10.9% on the seasonal peak of 35.6 million unique visitors in the week ended December 3. But compared to the same week last year, the Index was up by 28.4 %. and remained the top two retail sites, respectively with 1.3 million and 1.2 million average daily unique visitors. Flowers / gifts / greetings sites followed closely behind with 1.8 million average daily unique visitors.

America Online claimed that its members spent a record $4.6 billion online during the holidays, also implying that AOL surfers blew more money online than the average web user. Although overall holiday sales were sluggish, online buying met most analysts' expectations. At AOL’s shopping site Shop@AOL, mainstream consumer products continued to be the most popular items. AOL also reported that its members hit their credit cards to a total of $20 billion online during the entire year, doubling their 1999 spend. and Toys ‘R’ Us topped the Nielsen/NetRatings 2000 holiday shopping season index of major etailers. The duo led the field with a record-breaking 123 million shopping visits since the start of the holiday season. At its seasonal peak the index, which measures home and work shopping trips to representative e-commerce sites in eight product categories, grew 78%. But during week ending December 24, the index declined 31% as shoppers moved their purchases offline.

 The largest brick-and-mortar retailer was Dell Computer, closely followed by Barnes & Noble at no. 4. Recovering from a slow start after the launch of its revamped site, came in at number six with eighteen million shopping trips.

Yahoo! issued an upbeat post-Christmas sales statement, driving its shares sharply higher. US sales had doubled from the same period last year, with order growth strongest among partners that were also traditional retailers.

UK doubled the number of items sold between November 2 and December 19 from 1.5 million to over three million., offering a mix ranging from groceries to furniture, logged 60,000 orders weekly in the run-up to Christmas and predicts that overall annual sales will increase from £125 million to around £200m. encountered unexpected demand in its first Christmas online, causing it to extend its guaranteed delivery time from three to ten days. The sales surge was attributed to so-called ‘silver surfers’, spending an average of £50-£70 per order, compared with the average sale value of just £10 in the chain’s high street stores. Woolworth was zip-lipped about detailed figures but will release official trading data later in January.


 A survey of etailers by Handelsblatt revealed strong sales of media and technology products although none were willing to provide concrete sales figures.

Primus Online, a joint venture between retail giant Metro AG and Internet services group Debis, reported brisk sales of digital cameras, computer accessories and mobile phones, enabling the group to treble its sales from 1999 to DM150 million in 2000.

 Internet bookseller Mediantis reported strong pre-Christmas sales with orders in the fourth quarter up 70% year-on-year. For the full year, the etailer predicts sales of DM40 million, DM14.5 million of which was generated in the fourth quarter alone. Best sellers were the Harry Potter children's books with Sony's Playstation 2 video games console breathing down Harry’s neck.

 Pre-Christmas sales doubled from the 1999 level at internet department store Evita, a subsidiary of Deutsche Post World Net, with especial demand for consumer electronics, games and cosmetics.

 Mail order group Quelle, also reported that December online sales were expected to beat the record levels reached in November.

 The German subsidiary of said that sales of books and CDs increased by 33% in November and December

News sources: Various media [23-Dec-00 thru’ 03-Jan-01]