Expert: Online Sales to Jump This Holiday Season

West Lafayette, Ind. Although retail sales are expected to be weak this upcoming holiday season, online shopping is expected to increase at least 10%, according to a Purdue University retail expert.

Online sales are estimated to be $35 billion to $40 billion this holiday season, which is less than 7% to 9% of all holiday shopping, said Richard Feinberg, a researcher with the Purdue Retail Institute.

Feinberg said online holiday shopping peaks two weeks before Christmas because consumers believe Dec. 8-12 is the last period they can order something and receive it in time for Christmas. Shipping is one of the keys to a successful season for Web retailers.

"If Internet retailers want consumers to order through the holiday period, they have to make certain they have shipping that will get the product to them on time," Feinberg said. "Free shipping continues to be the magic words that attract shoppers."

Feinberg said more than 50% of online retailers will offer free shipping and more than 75% of them will offer special deals.

The institute estimates that there will be 35 million Internet shoppers on Cyber Monday alone, which is the Web equivalent to Black Friday. Cyber Monday falls on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Overall, the institute estimates 135 million consumers will buy holiday gifts online this year, including 5 million new households who have not done so in the past.