Online retail sales finish holiday season strong

US online retail sales made a strong showing in the home stretch of the holiday season, a new study released this week suggests.

          US online retail sales made a strong showing in the home stretch of the holiday season, a new study released this week suggests.

          Online sales peaked during the week ending Dec. 17, as spending for the holiday season overall nearly doubled compared with 1999 levels, a study done by PC Data Inc. and Goldman Sachs & Co. concludes. Total online holiday spending hit $8.7 billion compared to $4.2 billion last year, during the period between the first week of November and Dec. 17.

          Spending rose to $1.6 billion [b] for the week ending Dec. 17 compared to $1.5 billion [b] for the immediate prior week. The comparable week in 1999 brought in $878 million [m] for online retailers.

          Some online retailers reporting healthy holiday sales this week included Yahoo Inc.'s shopping services; Bluelight.com, Kmart Corp.'s online site, and gift seller RedEnvelope Inc.

          Yahoo said Monday that the order volume to Yahoo! Shopping nearly doubled in the U.S. during this holiday season compared to the same time last year. Outside the U.S., Yahoo saw its transaction volume increase more than six times from last year's totals, the company said in a statement. Yahoo didn't provide actual dollar amounts. Yahoo! Shopping is available in 14 countries.

          Bluelight.com, meanwhile, reported that its site traffic swelled to 9.1 million users for the weeks between Nov. 1 and Dec. 17. Sales on at the online shopping site increased more than 1,060% compared to the same period last year, when Kmart ran the site as www.kmart.com, Bluelight said.

          RedEnvelope said its sales rose 400% over last holiday season. The San Francisco-based electronic retailer shipped approximately 150,000 packages in the month of December, it said.

          Not all indicators were rosy for the final week of the holiday shopping season. Figures from Nielsen NetRatings Inc. show online shopping trips hitting 63.3 million during the week of Dec. 17, down 7% from 68.4 million [m] the week before.

          Media Metrix Inc. figures also suggest that traffic slowed in the final holiday shopping days. It estimated that 33.8 million [m] unique visitors visited online retail sites during the week ending Dec. 17. That is down 5.2% from a peak of 35.6 million during the second week of shopping that ended Dec. 3.

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