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Outstrip retail sales in Q4 2003

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US ecommerce retail sales reached $17.2bn (€13.6bn) during Q4 2003 - an increase of 25.1 per cent on same time last year.

Total retail sales for the period - which includes Christmas - were estimated at $918.2bn, an increase of just 6.2 per cent over 2002. Ecommerce sales for the whole of 2003 increased by 26.3 per cent to an estimated $54.9bn.

Although the figures indicate that the percentage growth of ecommerce retail sales is higher than total retail sales, seasonal, holiday and trading day differences were not factored into the Bureau's estimates. Online travel services, financial brokers and dealers, and ticket sales agencies - which are not classified as retail - were also left out of the equation.

The Q4 2003 ecommerce estimate increased 29.7 per cent from the third quarter of 2003, while total retail sales increased 5.2 per cent.

Ecommerce sales in Q3 and Q4 2003 accounted for 1.5 and 1.9 per cent of total sales, respectively. During Q4 2003, the figure was 1.5 per cent of total sales.

Estimates were based on a survey of around 11,000 retail firms which included all retailers, regardless of whether they are engaged in ecommerce. These firms were asked to submit an ecommerce sales report separate from overall sales each month.

Meanwhile, love has proved to be profitable for many etailers. Internet analyst firm ComScore Networks estimates that total on-line spending in several Valentine's Day-related categories leapt 49 per cent to $188m in the ten days to 11 February this year, compared to the corresponding period in 2003. Those categories included flowers and gifts, jewellery and watches, and health and beauty.

"Last year, the three weeks ending on Valentine's Day accounted for a full 12 per cent of the year's on-line spending in the Flowers & Gifts category - a seasonal peak that's expected and pronounced across channels," said Dan Hess, senior vice president of ComScore. "This year's growth rates are an encouraging sign for retailers in 'gifting' categories thus far, and consumers will continue to buy some products - such as flowers - virtually until the last minute."

Perhaps not surprisingly, a related ComScore survey of American consumers, conducted between 10 and 12 February this year, revealed that 50 per cent of male respondents believe that Valentine's Day gets too much attention. While female respondents were more likely to report that Valentine's Day gets the right amount of attention, 41 per cent agreed that there's too much hype surrounding Valentine's Day.

© ENN

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