Shoppers Look to Web to Escape Crowds

NEW YORK Nearly 42 million people have completed their online holiday shopping, according to a joint report from Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings.

Despite the staggering number, nearly 70 percent of the survey’s respondents are still shopping, so “there’s still plenty of room for growth and increased spending online,” said Abha Bahagat, senior analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, a part of Adweek parent VNU.

Meanwhile, year-over-year online spending continues to rise, as consumers spent $2.7 billion on the Web last week. That figure, excluding travel purchases, represents an 85 percent increase over the year-earlier period.

Avoiding crowds and lower prices are among the top reasons people opted to shop online. The report, based on 1,300 responses, found that 38 percent fled to the Web to escape crowds. Thirty-five percent said they logged on because they expected to find lower prices than in retail stores.

Also factoring in to consumers’ decision to eschew brick-and-mortar stores: a wider selection of products and ease of comparison-shopping on the Web, as well as the inconvenience of traveling to physical locations.