The Internet looks to be poised to become an even bigger force than ever in the world of retail in 2010. According to a report released in January by New York investment firm Credit Suisse Securities, ecommerce sales are expected to rise almost ten percent this year, to $144 billion. This comes on the heels of a weak 2009, in which there was only a 1.1 percent gain, the lowest on record.
Ironically, the same recession that has had a negative effect on some brick-and-mortar shopping centers could be helping online commerce become a bigger force in retail, as bargain-conscious shoppers look to the Internet to compare prices, share experiences and hunt for coupons. Along with shoppers, retailers are also diverting more attention, and more money, toward developing their web presences, making online shopping cheaper, quicker and simpler in the process.
"There's no question the Internet has gone from being a curious sidebar to a main event," said Columbia Business School marketing professor and former Sears Canada CEO Mark Cohen in a related story in the Chicago Tribune. "Customers are becoming completely comfortable with doing business on the 'Net...This year is going to be a very good year for online shopping, tempered only by the negative effect of the economy."
In a pertinent sign of the times, Walmart, the world's largest retailer, announced late last year that it plans to significantly upgrade its website in an attempt to supplant Amazon.com as the world's leading online merchant. Clearly, online shopping, which has historically accounted for roughly five percent of U.S. retail sales, is looking to get a lot bigger.
According to a recent report from ComScore Inc., online retail sales grew by roughly 20 to 25 percent every year for most of the previous decade, only to slow to a mere six percent in 2008, followed by almost no growth whatsoever in 2009. However, the holiday shopping season provided a slight bump that bodes well for 2010. This is believed to have been due to the big national chains cutting into some of the Black Sunday bargains with significant web-related sales targeted at shoppers who stayed home on the biggest shopping day of the year.
A record $595 million in online spending took place this year, up 11 percent from Black Friday 2009, according to ComScore. Sites like Amazon, Best Buy and Walmart enjoyed a 20 percent jump in sales from the year before, and it's believed that this spike could jump-start healthy growth in online retail commerce in 2010.
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