- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 22, 2001

Online shoppers just like traditional retail ones waited until closer to Christmas to get their virtual shopping done this year.
But unlike the brick-and-mortar retailers, online shops are anticipating a much bigger growth in sales.
Online retailers are expected to rake in as much as $13 billion in sales this holiday season at least an 11 percent growth over the same period last year, according to Jupiter Media Metrix, which tracks the on-line industry.
"Many consumers waited until late in the holiday season to make their gift purchases, and many were searching for late-season discounts," said Jared Blank, a Jupiter Media Metrix analyst.
Many online shops didn't disappoint, with deep discounts and free-shipping offers.
"The late season momentum of this year's online holiday traffic suggests that this year's sales expectations are likely to be exceeded," Mr. Blank said.
For the week ending Dec. 16 the number of visitors to more than 500 shopping sites increased 55 percent to 52.3 million compared with same period last year, according to Jupiter Media Metrix Online Shopping Index.
EBay.com and Amazon.com were the most visited sites last week, according to Jupiter.
More than 26 million items have been purchased from Amazon.com since Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, considered the start of the holiday-shopping season. Since Nov. 9 nearly 38 million items have been sold on the site.
Many gift-givers haven't completed their shopping for the season, even though Christmas is just three days away.
As of Dec. 19 less than a week before Christmas 60 percent of holiday shoppers had not finished their shopping and 15 percent had not even started, according to the International Mass Retail Association.
That's good news for traditional retailers who are banking on those last-minute shoppers to add to their bottom line. So far the country's malls have not drawn the crowds desired by retailers.
For the season, sales at specialty stores in malls are down 3 percent, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers.
Despite the sluggish outlook, the National Retail Federation is expecting a 2.5 percent increase in sales, compared with a 3.9 percent increase last year.
For the most part, it is really too late to order anything online that will arrive in time to be under the Christmas tree on Tuesday that is unless shoppers are willing to pay extra bucks for overnight shipping, Mr. Blank said.
Shoppers who are still determined to buy online and want the merchandise in time will have to seek out sites such as www.circuitcity.com, which allows them to purchase online and pick up the merchandise at one of the stores.

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