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'Tis the Season

It's never too early to get prepared for the holiday shopping season. Learn what you need to do today.

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This story appears in the October 2004 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

It's not December quite yet, but now's the time to start getting ready for the holiday shopping season. And it's going to be a busy one: Last year, online holiday shoppers spent a record $18.5 billion during the 2003 holiday season, a 35 percent increase from $13.7 billion in 2002, according to the "eSpending Report" released in January 2004 from investment banker Goldman, Sachs & Co.; market research and consulting firm Harris Interactive; and Web traffic analysis firm Nielsen//NetRatings. And online retail sales in general are expected to grow 27 percent this year to $144 billion, according to "The State of Retailing Online 7.0," an annual study of 150 retailers by online retailers association Shop.org and tech research firm Forrester Research. The study, released in May 2004, says online sales should reach 6.6 percent of total retail sales in 2004, an increase from 5.4 percent in 2003.

"Online retail is growing at record rates, and I predict this [holiday season] will be a record," says Donna L. Hoffman, professor and co-director of the Sloan Center for Internet Retailing at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. "All the numbers are showing very clearly that online just continues to grow."

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