| SAN FRANCISCO
SAN FRANCISCO Nov 20 E-commerce is expected to
grow strongly this holiday season, spurred by early online
deals, the rise of mobile devices and more free shipping offers.
Holiday sales will likely increase 16.4 percent from a year
earlier, outpacing total retail sales, which are forecast to
grow about 3.9 percent, according to analysts at Jefferies & Co.
Doug Anmuth, an analyst at J.P. Morgan, expects online
purchases to top 10 percent of total U.S. retail spending for
the first time in the fourth quarter.
"It's still early, but our sense is that we will have a
really positive holiday season," said Joel Anderson, head of
Walmart.com, the online business of Wal-Mart Stores Inc,
the world's largest retailer.
Wal-Mart expects 600 million online visitors online during
its holiday quarter, which runs from November through January.
That is up 13 percent from the same period last year, according
"We're still on forecasts and off to a good start," he
The holiday season is crucial for retailers because that is
when they make the most revenue and a big chunk of their
Thanksgiving and the days following, which include what is
traditionally the busiest online shopping day, Cyber Monday, are
more important this year as retailers lure consumers with
"This trend could drive a disproportionately higher percent
of overall holiday spending to the first half of the period,"
Brian Pitz and Brian Fitzgerald, Internet analysts at Jefferies,
said. "Heavy promotions would be needed later on to achieve the
growth rates of last year."
Starting on Thanksgiving, Wal-Mart will send early online
deals to customers who connect with the retailer via email,
Facebook Inc or by downloading its mobile shopping
application to their smartphones.
The spread of mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablet
computers, will also drive online sales growth this holiday,
analysts said. [ID: nL1E8MDI96]
J.P. Morgan's Anmuth estimates that mobile shopping will
account for 12 percent of holiday e-commerce spending in the
United States in the fourth quarter, up from 3 percent in the
same period of 2010 and 9 percent last holiday season.
Some mobile shopping represents a transition from personal
computers to smartphones and tablets, rather than extra
spending. However, Anmuth said the rise of mobile devices is
fueling a faster switch to online commerce from physical retail.
Free shipping will also be a major driver of online sales
growth this holiday, according to Anmuth and others.
More than half of consumers will abandon online shopping
carts if they have to pay for shipping, recent data from
comScore Inc showed.
Retailers have responded by offering more free shipping for
online purchases. Between 50 and 60 percent of online
transactions this holiday will come with free shipping,
according to Shawn Milne, an analyst at Janney Capital Markets.