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VISA sees shifting shopping patterns

Total holiday spending on Visa credit and debit cards jumped up by 14.2 percent, to $97.9 billion, with internet sellers seeing a substantially greater gain than bricks-and-mortar retailers during the four weeks between Nov. 28 and Dec. 28.

Visa USA said internet retailers gained the most during the 2003 holiday season, and accounted for roughly one out of every six dollars, or somewhat better than 15 percent, of dollars charged using Visa cards during the 2003 holiday season.

With consumers increasingly strolling the keyboard into internet shopping sites, online sales soared sharply higher, by 48.9 percent, to $7.6 billion during the month. Spending at retail stores climbed at a sharply slower, but still strong, pace of 10.3 percent, to $43.2 billion.

Weather may have had something to do with it, said Visa. "The winter storms that hit the East Coast disrupted key shopping weekends this season, likely keeping some shoppers at home and contributing to the growth of online sales."

On a regional basis, Visa said Western shoppers spent the most, up 17.2 percent; followed by the Southeast, 15.6 percent; the South, up 13.0 percent; the Northeast, up 12.6 percent; and the Midwest, 12.5 percent.

The highest grossing retail sectors for Visa cards were department stores, apparel, and mail and phone-order sales, which accounted for a total of more than $10 billion during the four-week period ended Dec. 28. Spending in the specialty retail and hobby category grew the most among retail sectors, with dollar volume in those channels jumping up by 13.5 percent from year-ago levels.

The first day of the traditional holiday season, Black Friday, Nov. 28, was Visa's biggest retail day, with nearly $2 billion spent. A close second was Saturday, Dec. 20, which accounted for more than $1.9 billion in retail spending.

As in previous years, the credit card network said consumer retail spending on Visa cards continued to be strong after Christmas day. From Dec. 25 to Dec. 28, retail spending on Visa cards amounted to $2.9 billion. December 26, traditionally a key shopping day as consumers head out to the sales, saw over $1 billion in retail spending on Visa cards, a 16.1 percent increase over Dec. 26, 2002.

Debit card use jumped up by 16.7 percent, to $15.1 billion.

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