E-commerce sales are still below 10% of all retail sales in the US, but the category has posted a better growth rate than bricks-and-mortar revenue for some time. comScore reported that between Black Friday and the day after Christmas last year total online sales were $27 billion.
Very few companies get all or most of their sales online. Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) is the largest of these. It gets more than 79 million unique visitors a month, which means it attracts many “shoppers” who may become buyers. Walmart.com (NYSE: WMT) gets 36.7 million unique visitors per month in the US, but it clearly makes the huge majority of its sales in stores.
The holiday sales season, where retailers earn the majority of their sales and profits, is less than a month away. By some definitions, it starts the first of November.
24/7 Wall St looked at major items that people will buy as gifts this year and identified those which will be bought almost exclusively online, because it makes more sense to buy them that way than going to the store. Oftentimes, these goods are cheaper online. Some may also only be available over the Web.
1. Large desktop computers. Desktop PC sales are now dwarfed by netbooks, notebooks, laptops, and tablets. Powerful desktop PCs also have huge displays, as large as 25 inches, and can weigh as much as 15 pounds. They are available through every PC company website—often with free shipping—and at the websites of retailers such as Amazon.com and Best Buy (NYSE: BBY).
2. E-readers. Amazon and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) sell their e-readers in stores, but the devices have been the featured product on Amazon.com for almost a year. The Kindle is for sale at Best Buy, but at Amazon.com it is shipped overnight and is never out of stock.
3. Gift certificates. It used to be that people who wanted to buy family or friends gift certificates would have to go into stores to get a piece of paper. Now, retailers such as Target have entire sections of their e-commerce sites that allow consumers to pick certificates and send then via email.
4. High-end exercise equipment. Want to buy the state of the art Bowflex machine for $3,000? The company has decided that retail outlets are not necessary. Parent company Nautilus uses TV commercials, online videos, and DVDs mailed to potential customers instead. Order a Bowflex online, have it shipped, and the company will send an expert to assemble it.
5. LL Bean clothing and accessories. The high-end clothing retail company has nearly given up on stores. It has about a dozen and a few outlet locations. But, LL Bean has a first-rate website and famous catalog and free holiday shipping from now until December 20th. The e-commerce site has thousands of clothes for men, women, and children, along with footwear, and the company’s famous signature outdoor gear.
6. Fruit Cake. For more than a century, fruit cake has been a special Christmas gift which was originally given to people at holiday parties and celebrations. The cakes were baked at home with elaborate recipes. Some could take days to prepare because the cake was wrapped in cloth and soaked in “spirits.” Not many people have that amount of time to prepare a holiday treat or want to take a heavy dessert plate to other people’s homes. The best fruit cake in the world is available online from well-known food e-commerce site Harry and David as well as from the K-Mart, JC Penney (NYSE: JCP), and Amazon websites.