Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

First Quarter Online Sales Rise

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

First Quarter Online Sales Rise

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) -- The first quarter, usually a sleepy time in the retail business, turned out to be unusually busy for online merchants.

The pace of Internet sales, which picked up momentum after Sept. 11, further accelerated in the first three months of 2002, fed by an improving economy, an influx of new shoppers on the Web as well as increased spending from previous customers, according to company reports released last week.

On Tuesday, Amazon.com, defying critics' contention that its business was stagnating, reported a net loss smaller than Wall Street projections and said sales grew faster than anticipated. The industry bellwether credited the improvement to a combination of price cuts and offers of free shipping. Meanwhile, 1-800 Flowers, a Web site that sells flowers and other gifts, announced a slight profit for its fiscal third quarter -- its second straight period of profitability -- beating Wall Street projections of a 2 cent loss. Sales met expectations, but the company was able to attract a larger- than-anticipated number of new customers even with a decrease in marketing spending, CEO Jim McMann said.

Online jeweler Bluenile.com, which achieved a 10 percent sales gain and met Wall Street's profit expectations for the first quarter, has had a 30 percent increase in April from a year ago, according to Diane Irvine, chief financial officer.

And Bluefly.com, which sells discounted designer goods, announced a smaller-than-expected first quarter loss and said it is even more confident it will be profitable by the fourth quarter.

"It is typical of emerging industries to usually top out. This industry slowed down and is now reaccelerating," said Chuck Davis, chief executive of Bizrate.com, a Web site and research firm that tracks and compares 2,000 online sites. He noted that the number of new shoppers on the Web is gaining momentum. Bizrate.com estimated that this year's first-quarter Internet sales of new goods, not including travel, soared 41 percent to $11. …

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