Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Holiday Web Shoppers Are Spending. But Not at Mom and Pop’s Web Site.

Shoppers continue to spend more online, regardless of whether they’re doing so at the mall. But this tide isn’t raising all boats equally: Holiday shopping is up at the biggest Web retailers, says comScore (SCOR), but it’s down everywhere else.

The numbers are pretty striking:

comscore online retail by size

It’s easy enough to figure out why this happening. Economies of scale mean the big guys can cater to price-conscious shoppers, and a crummy economy makes their marketing advantage over the little guys even more pronounced.

I’d argue that there’s a trepidation factor, too. I’ll admit that I’ve been wavering on buying a gadget in large part because the only place on the Web that sells it is the manufacturer’s site.  Amazon (AMZN) and Target (TGT) must know this, since they’ve bought the search keywords for the gizmo even though they don’t sell it. Sneaky.

Meanwhile, comScore says, overall online spending is up four percent this holiday season, running ahead of the tracking service’s prediction of a three percent bump.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work