Web sales to hit record highs this holiday season

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The 1999 holiday season is upon us, a season being hyped as e-commerce's biggest quarter yet. As a result, analysts are scrambling to evaluate online sales trends and project fourth-quarter business results. The latest findings come from Shop.org, a Silver Spring, Md.-based association of online retailers, and Boston Consulting Group.

According to the groups' survey of 57 online retailers, online sales jumped 160% in third quarter over the same period last year. In addition, online retailers' revenue will hit $9 billion during the 1999 holiday season, Nov. 1 through Dec. 31, the survey found.

The survey also found online sales growth will continue to outpace online retailers' marketing efforts in the fourth quarter. Online retailers will spend up to 40% of their total advertising budgets during the holiday season, according to the survey. Marketing spending in the third quarter jumped 120% over the third quarter last year; and online retailers are expected to spend at least 120% more on advertising in this year's fourth quarter over last year's.

The groups continue to project that online retailers, not including financial-services sites, will have sales totaling $36 billion in 1999.

The findings come on the heels of research from America Online, which found that AOL shoppers' spending tripled during this year's Thanksgiving week compared to the same time last year. About 2 million AOL members made a purchase online during Thanksgiving week in 1998; 4 million purchased online this year.

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