E-commerce hits it big this holiday

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The christmas season proved to be a boon for online merchants, with traffic and sales more than doubling at e-commerce sites and networks.

Boston Consulting Group, in a study released last week, said online holiday shopping grew 230% this year, with the average order increasing to $55, up 6% over last year.

Jupiter Communications said online holiday sales would reach $2.3 billion, up from $1.1 billion last year.

While few merchants released hard online numbers, gains were seen in traffic and orders.

America Online, while declining to reveal revenue, said more than 1 million AOL members made their first purchase online during the holiday season, out of about 14 million members. It did not track such activity last year.


The No. 1 purchase category on AOL this year was toys, kids- and baby-related products, up from No. 7 last year. The No. 2 purchase category was apparel, followed by books and music; electronics and video products; and candy, cards and flowers, said Wendy Brown, VP-electronic commerce for AOL.

"This clearly shows we have mainstream consumers buying mainstream products," Ms. Brown said.

The success of e-commerce this year is boosting Internet stocks. SkyMall, which last week reported revenues of $2.1 million this year compared with $300,000 last year, saw its stock price triple to $35.56 a share.

And the Sharper Image, which last week said its online sales were outpacing mail-order and physical store sales, saw its stock jump 18% in one day.

Copyright December 1998, Crain Communications Inc.

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