December 27, 2005 1:01 PM PST

Online retailers report record holiday sales

Several online merchants reported record sales during the holiday shopping season, including online retail giant Amazon.com, which said popular items were iPod music players, video games, coats and jewelry.

Amazon said it had its best holiday sales season ever, with more than 108 million items ordered. The company's holiday statistics cover the period from Nov. 1 through Dec. 21.

The busiest day for the world's largest online store was Monday, Dec. 12, when more than 3.6 million items were ordered, or 41 items per second. The most expensive item purchased during the period was a pair of diamond earrings worth $94,000.

For the season, variations on Apple Computer's iPod music player occupied the top three spots in electronics--the 2GB Nano, in black; the 30GB video iPod, also in black; and the 512MB Shuffle. Top sellers in video game hardware were Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) value pack and the Nintendo DS.

Top-selling books included "The Chronicles of Narnia" box set, written by C.S. Lewis--one volume of which is also the source for a movie that opened for the holiday season--and "The World is Flat: A Brief History of the 21st Century," by Thomas L. Friedman. In the personal care area, Panasonic nose and hair groomers, Rayovac headlights and Sonicare power toothbrushes were big sellers, Amazon said.

Overall, e-commerce was healthy in 2005, according to early returns. The U.S. Congress, meanwhile, spent at least a few minutes before heading off for its Christmas recess dealing with a bill that proposes sweeping changes to taxes imposed on online sales.

ComScore Networks reported that online retail spending between Nov. 1 and Dec. 21 totaled more than $17 billion, up 24 percent from a year earlier, while online spending for the week ending Dec. 18 rose nearly 30 percent from the same week a year earlier.

ComScore forecasts that online retail spending at U.S. Web sites will exceed $19 billion for the entire 2005 holiday season, representing growth of about 24 percent from the preceding year.

Overall online sales were helped slightly by the transit worker strike in New York, which started Dec. 20 and ended Dec. 22, as shoppers who would normally be filling retail stores were stranded at home or in the office in front of their computers. The share of total U.S. online spending generated by the New York area jumped by 28 percent during the first two days of the strike, rising from 3.4 percent to 4.4 percent, ComScore said.

A study from Nielsen/NetRatings, Goldman Sachs and Harris Interactive found that between Oct. 29 and Dec. 16 holiday online retail spending reached $25 billion, a 25 percent increase from the same period last year. Shoppers spent the most on clothing, followed by computers and hardware, consumer electronics, books and toys, and video games, the study found.

Among individual e-commerce sites, eBags.com, an online retailer of bags and shoes, reported record holiday sales, with an increase of 42 percent over the 2004 season.

"We are thrilled with our performance over the holiday season," eBags Chief Executive Jon Nordmark said in a statement Tuesday. That performance stemmed largely from the launch of the company's new Web site, 6pm.com, and the growth of eBags UK.

But growth was slower than anticipated for Overstock.com, which sells discount brand-name merchandise online. The company said its fourth-quarter growth had slowed to two times the industry average, rather than the three to four times it had posted in the past.

"We've had a nice holiday season," Overstock.com President Patrick Byrne said in a statement Tuesday, "just not as nice a season as we've had in the past or as I'd hoped for."

See more CNET content tagged:
ComScore, holiday season, online retailer, Apple iPod music player, Overstock.com Inc.

 

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