More than 50 million Americans took to the Web to shop during Thanksgiving week, with brick-and-click retailers continuing to gain market share, research firm Jupiter Media Metrix (Nasdaq: JMXI) said in a report released Thursday.
The 50.2 million online shoppers represented a 43 percent increase over the same week last year, when 35.2 million shoppers surfed the Web.
“The strong year-over-year growth in online shopping during Thanksgiving week demonstrates that e-commerce activity is alive and well in the midst of an otherwise difficult economic environment,” Jupiter vice president of media research Charles Buchwalter said.
Jupiter reported that the day after Thanksgiving saw shopping traffic surge 68 percent over the same day in 2000. The rest of the weekend saw strong gains as well, with visits to online shopping sites up 59 percent for Saturday and 55 percent on Sunday.
However, Jupiter analysts said the large early gains may not necessarily translate into a blockbuster holiday season, because many online retailers have taken to aggressive promotions — such as limited-time free shipping offers — to promote early buying.
“The key question is whether these shopping patterns will reflect the entire season,” Jupiter senior analyst Ken Cassar said.
Jupiter reiterated its forecast Thursday for an $11.9 billion holiday shopping season, an 11 percent increase over last year.
Big Names, Big Gains
EBay (Nasdaq: EBAY), with 4 million daily visitors on average, and Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN), with 2.3 million, held the top two spots on the shopping index. Jupiter said that the shopping site on AOL had 1.2 million daily visitors.
Jupiter found that the auctions category, which EBay dominates, drew the most visitors, at 4.3 million a day, followed by books and computers with 3.1 million each.
The surge of interest in new video game consoles, such as the Xbox by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) also drove traffic to game sites, which saw the largest increase of any category — 414 percent. Healthcare, at 321 percent, and furniture, with a 240 percent gain, were also among the fastest growing sectors.
Top individual site gainers included pure-play Drugstore.com (Nasdaq: DSCM), whose traffic rose 319 percent compared to a year ago. Drugstore.com has been diversifying into more mainstream product categories, recently introducing a Harry Potter merchandise line, for instance.
Building With Bricks
In general, however, the Web sites of traditional retailers continued to grow faster than pure-play and catalog rivals, according to Jupiter. Walmart.com (NYSE: WMT), which ranked as the 12th busiest shopping site overall, Target.com (NYSE: TGT), which ranked 16th, and Barnesandnoble.com (Nasdaq: BNBN), No. 17 on the list, all increased traffic by at least 40 percent.
Several of e-commerce’s remaining high-profile pure-plays, such as CDNow.com, Buy.com and Overstock.com, had growth rates of 15 percent or less. And catalog retailers continue to be niche players in the online shopping world, Jupiter said, with most having fewer than 100,000 daily visitors.
Other sites in Jupiter’s top 25 included EBay-owned Half.com, which ranked eighth, Sears.com (NYSE: S), at 23rd and BlueLight.com at 24th.