Retailers not seeing boost in Internet sales

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From books to electronics, Santa’s sack will be filled with goodies this year, but only a small percentage will be purchased via the Internet.
According to a Deloitte & Touche study, the appeal of the Internet is leveling off, with holiday sales remaining the same this year as last.
Survey respondents said they miss the “good old days.” When asked what they would bring back from the past 20 holiday seasons, consumers said they wanted good customer service, free gift wrapping and human interaction in stores and on the phone.
“Consumers have told us loud and clear what they expect this holiday season,” said Pat Conroy, vice chairman and national managing principal for Deloitte’s consumer business industry practice. “They’re looking for the basics: good deals, in-stock merchandise, easy return policies, extra sales help and extended shopping hours.”
Conroy said the same percentage of consumers reported they would spend part of their holiday dollars at Web retailers as they did the past two holiday seasons – about 69 percent. The Internet share of total holiday spending also is holding steady at 21 percent. As the holiday retail season wrapped up this week, retailers in Colorado Springs say their Internet experience has been mixed.
At Saboz, a downtown retailer that sells designer shoes, handbags and other gifts, Internet sales have not lived up to expectations.
“I’m not sure what it is,” said Linda Bridger, owner of the shop on Tejon Street. “We sell mostly shoes, and people want to try on shoes. We’ve had a wonderful year – starting around June, business really started picking up.
“We had a very strong November, stronger than what I expected,” Bridger said. “Usually early November is soft, but we did well. We’re pretty new, and I think people are just getting the idea that we’re here. December sales are definitely following suit.”
Books, kitchen supplies and toys are big sellers. Jon Medved, CEO of Chef’s Catalog, said his Internet business is holding steady at last year’s level.
“Internet sales are about 40 percent of our business,” he said. “It’s higher during the holidays, about 50 percent. We haven’t seen a dramatic increase this year.”
Chef’s Catalog relies on catalog sales for the majority of its business. Medved said some customers still mail in their orders.
In an attempt to boost Internet sales, Chef’s Catalog offered free shipping on orders of $99 or more, he said. The kitchen supply store also relies on e-mail to make customers aware of discounted items and other promotions.
“We’ve been offering free shipping for about a month,” he said. “But it hasn’t increased sales – we’re pretty much holding steady.”
Online sales have tapered off in the weeks since “Cyber Monday,” the Monday after Thanksgiving, when many shoppers took advantage of online sales after the long holiday weekend.
At that time, most retailers were reporting a 30 percent increase compared to 2004, according to a shop.org survey on Dec. 6.
Amy.Gillentine@csbj.com