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Online vs. Brick-and-Mortar

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A report from The Conference Board and TNS has some good news and some bad news for brick-and-mortar retailers as the holiday shopping season limps along. The bad news is that wired consumers are expected to spend less this year than they did last year in stores, even as their online spending rises slightly. The good news for stores is that their Web sites are among the ones attracting the most interest from consumers.

Conducted in the fourth quarter, the research found 16 percent of online respondents planning to spend more than $500 in stores this season, down from 21 percent last year. At the same time, the number planning to spend $500-plus online rose from 4 percent last year to 5 percent this year. There was a similar decline (from 61 percent last year to 57 percent this year) in the number planning to spend $100 to $500 in stores, while the number expecting to spend that much online inched up from 35 percent last year to 36 percent this year.

The polling found books, clothes, movies and toys the top items on consumers' online shopping lists. As for where they'll do this shopping, Walmart.com and BestBuy.com were the most popular sites, "followed by online retailers such as Amazon.com and online auction sites such as EBay.com."

As shoppers turn to the Internet in search of bargains, shipping charges are a sticking point. Forty-seven percent of female online shoppers and 38 percent of their male counterparts cited this factor as a source of frustration. Likewise, "About 93 percent of women vs. 87 percent of men say free shipping would serve as a motivation to spend more online." Along the same lines, the report says 48 percent of women and 39 percent of men would spend more online if the retailers offered free return postage.