Online Christmas shopping has definitely taken off this year. Figures from the US show an increase of 25% over the year before with shoppers spending US$25 billion (NZ$36 billion) between the end of October and December 16.
New Zealand’s online shopping figures are also up. About a quarter of New Zealanders bought something online last year, and the number of online shoppers has increased consistently over the last two years, according to Jennifer Reddington, senior analyst at researcher Nielsen NetRatings.
“People are getting more comfortable conducting commerce online, and anything the retailers can do to boost people’s confidence is obviously going to help drive the market,” she says.
New Zealand online auction site Trade Me usually sees a small increase before Christmas but last year the increase was stronger than before, says Jon Macdonald, technical manager at Trade Me.
“One of the reasons for that is that nowadays 40% of the things on our site are brand new, which would make the mix of things you can buy more suitable for Christmas gifts,” says Macdonald.
For Trade Me, the rush happens in the New Year. In recent years, the site has seen significant growth at the beginning of January. Some of that is due to the phenomenon of re-gifting unwanted Christmas gifts, says Macdonald.
“We see an increase in certain categories just after Christmas, especially in the lingerie category. Possibly, overly optimistic boyfriends bought the wrong outfits for their partners,” he says.
Macdonald also puts some of the January shopping down to the “barbeque-effect” — over the holidays, friends and family get together and talk about exciting Christmas gifts and house hunting, for example.
Telecom launched its online shopping mall Ferrit at the end of November last year and expected between 50,000 and 60,000 visitors over the Christmas period. Instead the site saw over 100,000 visitors in the lead up to Christmas. January has been a bit slower, says Ferrit’s Peter Wogan.
170 retailers have signed up for the online shopping site, with 88 retailers currently selling their products online. The top selling categories on the website so far have been electronics; apparel; whiteware and DVDs and CDs. However, last week clothing jumped ahead of electronics as the number one category.
“We are not trying to compete with traditional shopping,” Wogan says. “It’s quite common that visitors come to our website to find exactly what they want before going to the actual shop to buy it. If the shop doesn’t have it, they will come back to the site, or they might come back to do some additional shopping online.”