ISP giant America Online revealed that its US subscribers spent a record amount online in the fourth quarter, reflecting a healthy holiday period for e-tailers.

AOL members spent $11 billion in last three months of the year, up 72% year-on-year. The holiday boom brings the total 2001 internet expenditure by the group’s American subscribers to $33bn, an increase of 67%.

Moreover, the growth in total spend is far more than just a reflection of AOL’s rapidly expanding subscriber base. According to Morgan Stanley, the number of American members surged 17% to 25.3 million last year (AOL does not report subscriber numbers for the US alone, but recently announced the worldwide total had increased to 33m).

Popular items included women’s and teen’s apparel, with the majority of purchases made by female surfers – confirming a report earlier in the week [WAMN: 02-Jan-02]. Around 79% of AOL subscribers shopped on the web in the last six months, with some 91% intending to do so in the coming half-year.

Separate reports also suggest it was a happy Christmas for e-commerce. ComScore Networks said internet expenditure excluding holidays and auctions came to $9.6bn from the start of October to December 23 – putting a fourth-quarter total on course for $10.5bn, almost 15% up year-on-year and ahead of the company’s prediction of $10bn–$10.25bn.

In addition, estimated that online sales came to $6.6bn between November 19 and December 26, some 36% higher than the same period in 2000.

News sources: Wall Street Journal; Financial Times