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September 5, 2000
Online Sales Growth
Despite slow retail sales during the summer, online sales figures continue to rise

Though the summer months are slow for retail stores, online sales continued to increase throughout June and July. Second quarter results from the U.S. Department of Commerce show consumers spent over $5.5 billion shopping online, a 5.3% increase from the first quarter of this year. In addition, other surveys show not only are people spending more online, but more people are spending online. In July, Nielsen/Net Ratings found 52 million Internet users and 42% of home Internet users visited e-commerce sites, which is 3 million more people than in June. Retailers are reporting large increases in traffic to their sites, and content-rich e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay are leading the way by attracting a large global audience. Amazon.com, for example, saw its number of unique buyers jump 22% in July to 1.8 million, according to research done by the E-Commerce Times.

Bricks-and-mortar retailers are benefiting from their online store sales as well as Internet-only retailers. J.C. Penney reported a slight decline in its department store sales for the second quarter, but sales on its Web site shot up to $47 million from $10 million in the first quarter. In July, J.C. Penney moved up three spots to become the number 7 most visited retail Web site ranked by PC Data Online. Other retailers in the top 20 include Sears, Best Buy, Staples and Spiegel.

Online sales are expected to continue to increase throughout the holiday season. Consumers are continuing to turn to the Internet for shopping, or at least browsing, and for the first time researchers are reporting people are beginning to cite online shopping as the main reason for getting Internet access. Analysts expect sales from Web stores to reach $184 billion annually by 2004.

- by Julia M. Duncan