Online Holiday Sales To Set Record Despite Slowest Growth In Five Years

Online holiday sales in November and December are expected to rise 13% to an all-time-best $89 billion this year, according to the research firm Forrester. The growth rate, though, is forecast to be the slowest since 2010 because of a shorter-than-average selling period -- 28 days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, nearly 15% fewer shopping days than in 2012. The research firm said shoppers may experience late shipments again this year because there are nearly seven times as many online packages being shipped daily in the two weeks before Christmas than there are packages shipped daily from January through October. Even though most online consumers are already buying online, Forrester forecast 3.4 million consumers will buy on the Web for the first time this holiday. While Target Corp. is promoting free shipping through Dec. 20, Forrester advised retail clients to limit free-shipping offers in the two weeks before Christmas and said retailers should limit no-threshold free shipments more broadly. They "tend to clog the carrier network with low-value packages that decrease margins and slow ship times when things need to move quickly," Forrester said.

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