They were everywhere during last year’s holiday season. E-tailers, the brazen youngsters of retail, had what seemed like unlimited cash flow from investors drunk on the nectars of the booming economy. The result was advertisements on television and top magazines, incentives like free overnight shipping and a pioneer’s spirit of boundless possibility.
A year later, though consumers’ acceptance of online retailing has soared and sales are booming, the climate at e-tailers is one much changed since 1999.
Total Internet holiday spending touched $8.7 billion, up 108 percent from the $4.2 billion shoppers spent on the Web in 1999, reported a study by Goldman Sachs, which tracked spending from the first week of November to Dec. 17.
In the jewelry industry, the online sector—largely undefined during last year’s holiday—evolved into a narrow one led primarily by clicks-and-mortar companies. As predicted last year by analysts like Jupiter Communications, established retailers like Tiffany and Zale matured into the most successful venues for fine jewelry.
Of the pure play e-tailers, the field narrowed for the large group in 1999 as Miadora and Adornis closed shop, leaving sites like Ashford.com. While still suffering losses, Ashford, like other online e-tailers, is no longer a cash cow and focused on profitability and customer service, according to CEO Kenny Kurtzman.