A recent Goldman/NetRatings/Harris poll (reported in WSJ) finds that holiday ecommerce sales were up 30% year over year, a significant acceleration from last year and more (slightly) bad news for traditional retailers--at least those that lack a web presence. It's taken a while, but most of those seemingly nutty mid-90s predictions about the potential for ecommerce are being borne out.
What is surprising (to me, anyway) about the growth of the industry is how successful many traditional retailers have been. Usually, channel-and-model shifts create challenges for incumbents that can never quite be overcome (witness Compaq's failure to challenge Dell in direct PC sales, Sears' failure to fight off Wal-Mart, etc.). The ecommerce wars are far from over--web pure-plays still dominate the top spots and the hybrid retailers may not be generating much profit--but many traditional retailers appear to have built credible online businesses.
The annual Goldman poll, which debuted back when I was an analyst, is the kind of work that is worth a thousand "buy" or "sell" ratings (the Wall Street output that most of the recent commentary about research suggested was the only thing that mattered). Ultimately, year-over-year percentage growth is relevant only to short-term traders, but there's no substitute for primary customer research. The world is now drowning in opinions about stocks, so much so that they have become irrelevant. What is helpful are facts and relevant, perceptive analysis, and Goldman's work with Nielsen, et al, seems to have provided some.
UPDATE: Per the NYT, Comscore puts the year-over-year increase at 25%, perhaps because it excludes eBay (ludicrously).