The Goldman Sachs & Co., Nielsen//NetRatings and Harris Interactive's Holiday eSpending Report released Monday reveals that online shoppers spent $18.6 billion, excluding travel, during the first six weeks (October 29 — December 9) of the 2005 holiday season. This year's U.S. online spending resulted in a 16% increase (+/- 3.1 percent margin of error) from the same time period in 2004, with 19% of consumers having indicated that they have yet to start their holiday shopping.

The eSpending Report is based on a weekly national survey of approximately 1,000 online adult consumers, capturing consumer spending, attitudes and motivations of more than 6,500 shoppers during the first six weeks of the 2005 holiday season.

According to this week's eSpending Report, online shoppers have spent the most on apparel/clothing thus far in the 2005 holiday season, totaling $3.4 billion, which was the majority, or 17%, of total online revenue. The consumer electronics and computer hardware/peripherals categories placed second and third with revenue totals of $2.8 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively. Books and toys/video games rounded out the top five product categories, accounting for a respective $2.2 billion and $1.4 billion in online revenue.

“Apparel and consumer electronics are consistently among the most popular gifts purchased during the holidays, resulting in the largest share of online revenue. Additionally, sales in the computer hardware category have been fueled by aggressive discounting on items, such as PCs and laptops,” said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. “The combination of well-known brands and retailers in the top categories strongly complement and drive online sales, because consumers trust and have confidence in both.”

  Table 1: Online Shopping Categories Ranked by Projected Online Revenue,
   December 2005

  Product Category**                    2005 Holiday   2005 Projected Online
                                        Online Revenue    Holiday Revenue to
                                        to Date            Date in Millions
  Apparel/Clothing                                17%                $3,363
  Consumer electronics                            14%                $2,844
  Computer hardware/peripherals                   13%                $2,683
  Books                                           11%                $2,236
  Toys/Video games (hardware and software)         7%                $1,362

  Source: Goldman Sachs, Nielsen//NetRatings, and Harris Interactive
   eSpending Report, December 2005; the first six weeks of the Holiday
   eSpending Report are from October 29 to December 9, 2005.
  *Note: Number of respondents: More than 1,000 online U.S. adult consumers
   surveyed weekly (Week 1-6: n=6,510)
  **Note: The featured categories met a minimum reporting sample of 100

Drilling into 2005 Online Holiday Shopping Behavior

During the sixth week of the 2005 holiday retail season, the Holiday eSpending Report asked more than 1,000 consumers to break down their 2005 holiday budget amongst various sales channels. The traditional brick-and-mortar stores captured the majority, or 69% of spending, compared to the 3.5% designated to catalogs. Online, the only channel to see growth, garnered 27.5% of the holiday budget, jumping 5.9 percentage points from last year.

In addition, consumers had a late start to this year's online shopping. As of the fifth week of the 2005 holiday season, 30% of consumers had not started their online shopping, which was up from 23% during the same time period last year. By the sixth week, 19% of consumers still had not started their online holiday shopping, while 37% of online shoppers indicated they had finished. Forty-four percent of consumers stated that they've begun but had not finished holiday shopping.

To date, the majority of holiday shoppers are satisfied with their overall 2005 shopping experience with 70% noting that they have felt very or somewhat satisfied. Only five percent of consumers cited they were either very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied.

“As online retail continues to mature as a sales channel, shoppers are provided the luxury of waiting to make holiday gift purchases until the last couple weeks of the season. Online retailers are extending shipping deadlines later each year, which provides ample time to comparison shop for the best deal. Price remains one of the biggest motivators online and is reflected in large spikes in audience traffic,” continued Dougherty.

  Table 2: Overall Consumer Satisfaction Ranked by Percentage, December 2005

  Satisfaction Level                             Consumers
  Very dissatisfied                                   1.8%
  Somewhat dissatisfied                               3.7%
  Neutral                                            24.2%
  Somewhat satisfied                                 25.9%
  Very satisfied                                     44.4%

  Source: Goldman Sachs, Nielsen//NetRatings, and Harris Interactive
   eSpending Report, December 2005
  *Note: Number of respondents: More than 1,000 online U.S. adult consumers
   surveyed weekly (Week 6: n=1,031)