The National Retail Federation (NRF) and Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), in conjunction with Greenfield Online, today announced the results of the latest NRF/Forrester Online Retail Index. According to the 12th survey in this monthly series, total spending on online sales decreased from $6.4 billion in November to $6.1 billion in December. Nearly 20 million households shopped online in December, spending an average of $308 per person.

Online jewelry sales experienced the largest increase, soaring from $56 million in November to $179 million in December. Other leading categories included appliances, consumer electronics, garden supplies, and tools and hardware. Online sales of appliances shot from $25 million in November to $52.5 million in December. Consumer electronics rose to $474 million in December, from $259 million in November. Similarly, garden supplies and tools and hardware collectively jumped from $72 million in November to $105 million in December [CURL /NRF 0 “(see Figure 1)”].

“Despite economic uncertainty that continued through December, consumers are still enticed by the power of online shopping,” said James L. McQuivey, research director at Forrester. “In the near term, this Index will demonstrate that consumers will sustain online retail through uncertain economic times — online shopping is here to stay.”

“December’s figures underscore that consumers clearly embraced the online channel to augment their shopping this past holiday season, despite its less-than-stellar performance last year,” said Scott Silverman, NRF’s vice president, Internet retailing. Silverman also noted that the slight dip in December sales is likely attributable to consumers making online purchases earlier, rather than later, in the holiday season. “Moving forward, we expect to see the Internet evince its own distinct purchasing patterns,” he added.

In December, sales of books, office supplies, airline tickets, and car rentals decreased the most. Books declined from $383 million in November to $285 million in December. Sales of office supplies went from $162 million in November to $122 million in December. Airline ticket sales fell from $1.1 billion in November to $663 million in December. Online sales of car rentals dropped to $141 million in December, from $276 million in November.

About The IndexThe NRF/Forrester Online Retail Index measures, on a monthly basis, the growth and seasonality of online shopping based on data collected from online shoppers. The Index is based on 5,000 responses during the first nine business days of the month from an online panel developed by Greenfield Online. The survey results for November were fielded from January 2 through January 12, 2000.

The monthly panel is weighted to Forrester Research’s Benchmark Panel, which surveyed nearly 90,000 US and Canadian members of a consumer mail panel developed by NPD Group, a market research firm. Data was weighted to demographically represent the North American population. The survey was fielded from late November 1999 to February 2000.