Increasing number of holiday shoppers choosing Internet

by Peter Frost

Staff Reporter
Although in the past there have been concerns over the security and reliability of Internet purchases, more and more American consumers are firing up their modems instead of heading to the mall.
Industry moguls say better technology coupled with consumers getting used to shopping online has led to the recent increase of e-commerce purchases.
According to a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Internet retail sales reached nearly $6.4 billion in the third quarter of 2000, up 15.3 percent from second quarter. This came at a time when more traditional retail sales were declining.
And most agree this number of Internet purchasers will increase even more dramatically this holiday shopping season.
“I definitely see the trend in Internet purchases that’s only going to increase,” said Marc Kowalski of American Express Financial Advisors.
While convenience has always been the backbone of the Internet, last year several online retailers found themselves swamped with orders, and unable to fulfill all of them on time.
Many Americans became disenchanted after their online purchases didn’t arrive until after Christmas Day.
But both consumers and e-retailers have had a year to learn from last year’s mistakes.
“I don’t think order fulfillment will be as big of a problem as it was last year, but there’s definitely still going to be some issues,” Kowalski said.
He added that current earnings issues and the stagnant state of economy could result in companies not overstocking to compensate for last year’s problems due to the investment it requires.
“Companies will be much more efficient with orders than last year,” Kowalski said.
For browsing and display purposes, brick-and-mortar stores are still going to play an important part in the buying decision.
College of Liberal Arts junior Lyndsey Clark, however, said she might do most of her shopping from the comfort of her own apartment.
She is bypassing the hassle of rush-hour traffic, finding a place to park and waiting in the long lines typical to the season.
“It’s just so much easier,” Clark said. “I’ve got four finals and a couple of papers coming up, and I just don’t have that much time to go out and Christmas shop for everyone.”
Clark said the main reason she prefers to shop online is the utter convenience, but also because product selections are better, items are cheaper and there are no lines to wait in.
“I can go online and buy a gift for my dad, and two days later, it’s delivered to his desk already wrapped,” she said.
Online retailers are hoping that other consumers feel the same as Clark.
“People are learning that the value gained shopping online is outweighing the risk,” said Jim Sterne, President of Target Marketing, an Internet marketing firm in Santa Barbara, Calif.
“More and more people are getting involved in online shopping, and in general they’re simply getting accustomed to doing business over the Internet,” he said.

Peter Frost is the business editor and can be contacted at pfros[email protected]. He can also be reached at (612)-627-4070 x3215.