*** Visits to retail sites in December up 14% year-on-year ***

London, 9th January 2006

Hitwise, the leader in online competitive intelligence, today publishes its monthly data for visits to retail websites in the UK over the Christmas period.

In December 2005, visits to retail websites were up 14% year-on-year, cementing a remarkable year for online retail in the UK – and outperforming our earlier predictions that the sector would enjoy a 12% growth in visits from December 2004.

Online retail benefited significantly during the post-Christmas sales

Visits to retail websites were up significantly in the week after Christmas, seeing an increase of 16% year-on-year for the week ending 31st December 2005. The retail sectors driving this growth were Ticketing (+280% growth), Auctions (+29% growth) – as consumers presumably looked to offload unwanted Christmas gifts – and Apparel and Accessories (+24% growth).

For the month of December, the retail sub-categories that performed best were Auctions (+29% growth), Ticketing (+365% growth), House and Garden (+14% growth) and Toys and Hobbies (+13% growth). The Auctions category is dominated by eBay, which enjoyed unprecedented levels of visits during Christmas 2005, whilst visits to Ticketing websites were buoyed by several concert announcements, including those for Robbie Williams and Take That’s comeback tour.

Sales lead to demand for LCD TVs, DVD recorders and sofas

Searches for home electronics and furnishings were also up considerably in this period, with consumers holding out on purchases of higher-priced items for the much anticipated post-Christmas sales. The terms that appeared among the top 20 product related search terms sending visits to retail websites last week included 'lcd tv', 'dvd recorders' and 'televisions'.

The term 'lcd tv' was the sixth highest product related search term sending visits to Shopping & Classifieds websites, and did not appear in the top 20 most popular search terms in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Searches for 'lcd tv' increased more than two and a half times comparing the week ending 31st December 2005 to the week ending 24th December 2005, whilst searches for 'dvd recorders' and 'televisions' doubled in that same period.

Also among the top search terms were 'sofas' and 'beds', indicating that large household items were popular during the sales. The term 'beds' was the seventh highest volume product term sending visits to retail websites for the week ending 31st December 2005.

Christmas mp3 gifts caused an increase in searches for ‘music downloads’

Searches for 'music downloads' also entered the top 20 search terms for the week ending 31st December 2005. Whilst the search phrase 'free music downloads' was a staple in the lead-up to Christmas, the addition of 'music downloads' is likely a result of the rush on Christmas day to fill new mp3 players with digital music. Hitwise previously issued figures which showed that visits to music sites increased by 50% on Boxing Day, with Apple's iTunes the most popular music download website.

Sign Up For the Hitwise Analyst Weblog

In addition to the UK Christmas Shopping Series instalments, Heather Hopkins also regularly provides analysis of key online trends via her weblog at http://weblogs.hitwise.com/heather-hopkins/.

About Hitwise

Hitwise is the leading online competitive intelligence service. Each day, Hitwise monitors how more than 25 million Internet users interact with over 500,000 websites across 160 industry categories.

By monitoring more people, more websites, more often, Hitwise provides marketers with timely and actionable marketing insights on how their online presence compares to competitive websites. Companies use this information to maximize the return on their online investment, in efforts such as affiliate programs, search marketing, online advertising, content development and lead generation.

Hitwise collects Internet usage information via a combination of ISP data partnerships and opt-in panels, and complies with local and international privacy legislation as audited by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Founded in 1997, Hitwise is a privately held company, headquartered in New York City and operates in the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Singapore.

More information about the Hitwise Competitive Intelligence service is available at www.hitwise.com.

For up to date analysis on online trends, please visit the Hitwise Intelligence-Analyst Weblogs at weblogs.hitwise.com.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Jannie Cahill


Tel: 020 7378 3619

Published on: 12:00AM on 9th January 2006