Online Retail Sales Surge

Online retail sales in the U.S. will reach nearly $52 billion this holiday season, a 16 percent increase over last year's weak numbers, according to a new forecast from Forrester Research, Inc. The 2010 growth rate is twice the rate in 2009, when online holiday sales grew 8 percent in the wake of the global recession. Forrester defines the holiday shopping season as the months of November and December.

"Consumers are showing a willingness to spend this season," said Sucharita Mulpuru, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst. "And, almost universally, online retailers expect their holiday sales to increase this year over last year, showing industrywide optimism."

The National Retail Federation is forecasting a 2.3 percent increase in total holiday retail sales this year, reflecting the overall strength of the online channel. A recent Forrester survey of 4,700 U.S. online consumers showed that they will make 37 percent of their purchases via an online channel this holiday season, compared with 30 percent in 2009. And 80 percent of retailers surveyed in the Q3 2010 Online Sales Flash Survey said their gross online sales increased year-over-year for the third quarter, a likely indicator that the trend is primed to continue.

As outlined in the new Forrester report, "US Online Holiday Retail Forecast, 2010," 87 percent of U.S. online buyers with a household income of $100,000 or more said they will spend the same or more online this year compared with last year, while just 13 percent plan to spend less. This year will also bring a boost in mobile technology's role in completing a purchase — 18 percent of American adults plan to use their mobile device to compare retail prices and 16 percent expect to use their phone to locate a nearby store.

"Online retailers are primed to react to this year's holiday trends," said Mulpuru, "initiating aggressive promotional programs to drive holiday sales — exceeding even the discounts of previous years."


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