Holiday E-Commerce Up 40 Percent

BizRate credited lower prices and free shipping for driving online sales to $17 billion in the fourth quarter.

The nations economic woes had little impact on the holiday shopping season on the Internet, as online retailers enjoyed a 40 percent sales boost from the same period a year ago, according to data released late Thursday by

Los Angeles-based BizRate, a comparative shopping site and e-commerce research firm, pegged fourth quarter online sales at $17.44 billion, up from $12.43 billion a year ago. That was slightly better than the 35 percent increase the company had forecast. The fourth-quarter numbers were helped by $920.1 million spent online from Dec. 26-31, largely post-holiday clearance sales, BizRate officials said.

Online orders were up 49 percent, from 85.3 million in 2001s fourth quarter to 127.3 million this past year. However, average order size decreased by 6 percent, from $146 to $137.

The holiday shopping period, measured from Nov. 25 to Dec. 25, saw an increase of 23 percent, from $6.43 billion to $7.92 billion, though BizRate officials said the holiday sales spike actually began in early November.

Computer hardware was the top selling item online in the fourth quarter, generating $6.24 billion in sales, a 50 percent increase over last year. Electronics was next, up 38 percent to $2.45 billion. The largest percentage gainer was entertainment, up 61 percent from $1.07 billion to $1.72 billion. Apparel was the slowest growing segment, up just 10 percent from to $1.61 billion.

Women comprised 60 percent of online shoppers in the fourth quarter, compared to 55 percent for the full year. For the entire year, online retail sales were up 34 percent to $47.98 billion from $35.87 billion in 2001.

BizRate officials credited lower prices and free-shipping incentives for driving online sales growth in the fourth quarter.