Consumers shopped till they dropped a considerable amount
of cash into the leading shopping networks' coffers this holiday season.
Home Shopping Network, QVC Inc. and ValueVision
International Inc. were among those seeing green in the days leading up to Christmas. In
one new wrinkle, the networks' Internet sites played a bigger role than ever in
ringing up hefty sales as armchair shoppers mobilized at the last minute.
A QVC spokeswoman last week described its Web sales for the
Christmas season as "booming" on its iQVC site, but added that final sales
results for the network and the Internet were still being tabulated at press time.
Formed in fall '96, the iQVC site alone tripled its
dollar volume over November-December 1997, an iQVC spokeswoman said, citing toys, jewelry
and small electronics items as its top categories. Its customers averaged two items per
purchase. Rather than a last-minute rush, iQVC saw its sales spread throughout the holiday
season, with peaks in early October and on Sunday, Dec. 6, she added.
QVC's record sales weeks previously have been one in
late August 1998 and another before Christmas of 1997.
ValueVision last week reported that its pre-Christmas
fourth-quarter sales topped year-ago levels by more than 50 percent. For the week ending
Sunday, Dec. 20, alone, its shipments hit a record $9.2 million, the company said.
Even though ValueVision cited its increased cable
distribution as fueling the 70 percent growth of its television operation's
pre-Christmas sales, it pointed out that the growth rate of its electronic commerce, or
Internet, business far outpaced that growth rate -- but without providing a percentage.
HSN executives could not be reached for comment by press
time last Wednesday. But the network had predicted in late November that it would enjoy
"a record-breaking holiday season," with a projected 12.5 million phone calls
and 5.2 million packages expected to translate into double-digit sales gains over 1997.
Toward that end, it presented Yule gift ideas via themed programming -- showcasing
electronic, gold and jewelry gifts, for instance.
A newly released study indicated that online shopping sales
in general soared this season. According to the Boston Consulting Group, online sales
skyrocketed 230 percent for Nov. 23 through Dec. 20 versus the corresponding 1997 time
E-shopping, at an estimated $13 billion, still accounts for
a small percentage of overall retail sales -- less than 1 percent, according to Boston
Consulting -- but its share is growing fast.