Survey: Online holiday sales up 17%

Don’t tell the larger catalogers and mass retailers that struggled mightily this past holiday season, but early reports suggest that online holiday sales exceeded original forecasts, enjoying 17% growth between Nov. 1 and Dec. 31 compared with holiday 2001. According to Jupiter Research, widespread free shipping promotions fueled online growth this past holiday season.

“Online retailers may have created the expectation among consumers that free shipping and handling is now the norm,” Jupiter senior analyst Ken Cassar said in a statement. But that “puts a lot of pressure on [online] retailers to run free shipping promotions into perpetuity.”

Cassar also points out that retailers’ Websites and fulfillment infrastructure largely “bore the weight of the concentrated sales volume from a short holiday selling season,” even though few retailers “had made substantial infrastructure upgrades prior to the 2002 holiday shopping season.”