Online Shoppers Continue to Buy Despite Late Hour

E-commerce traffic, soaring from last year's figures, decreased just 6% last week from the previous week.
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Despite warnings that online shoppers who wait until the last minute are taking their holiday cheer in their own hands, it appears that many consumers waited until the last minute anyway.

E-commerce traffic decreased just 6% last week from the previous week, according to figures released Thursday by

Media Metrix

, an Internet measurement firm.

"Despite the fact there have been no shortage of well-publicized problems at some e-commerce sites, a lot of customers seem to have waited until the last minute," said Mike May, a digital commerce analyst at

Jupiter Communications

, a New York-based Internet research firm. The number of unique visitors increased 33% since Thanksgiving week, when the holiday shopping season traditionally kicks off.

Overall, e-commerce sites saw 37% more visitors last week than during the same period in 1998, according to Media Metrix, a number in line with Jupiter's projections, May said.

The flowers/gifts/greetings category, including sites such as


, saw increases of 10% over the previous week.

The top overall gainer was

, a magazine subscription site, which experienced 161% in growth over the prior week. The high numbers for companies in the "last minute gift category" is likely a result of increased advertising by those companies, May said. He noted that as other e-commerce companies wound down their advertising in the last week or so before Christmas, many last-minute gift companies took advantage of the extra advertising inventory to step up their own advertising.

(AMZN) - Get Report

topped the list of sites with the highest number of overall visitors, followed by

(EBAY) - Get Report






which logged a whopping 373% increase over the same period last year. The bad news for is that it has had difficulty filling customer orders made on the Web. Parent

Toys R Us


said Tuesday that overwhelming volume prevented it from processing and fulfilling the entire batch of orders placed on or before Dec.10, its deadline for Christmas delivery by standard shipping. The company is giving $100 coupons to those Internet shoppers who will not be getting their gifts in time for Christmas.

"They could have had


success story of holiday 1999," May said. "Obviously, it was too much traffic and far too many customers." Toys R Us shares were up 5/8, or 5% to 14 1/8 in Thursday trading.

Average daily visits to such sites as


increased 57% and 94% last week, respectively, over the average of the last three weeks, presumably due to shoppers checking on the status of shipping orders.