E-tailing 

Vann's on a roll

Holiday season 2009 has one Missoula retailer already one-upping itself left and right.

Vann's Marketing Manger Matt Ranta says the local retailer broke company records for Internet sales on Black Friday, only to have the new records trumped by all-time highs on Cyber Monday. Ranta says sales remained the strongest in Vann's' online history throughout last week.

"We're hopeful that this is going to end up being our best holiday season ever," Ranta says.

The holiday business boom follows a national breakthrough for the company last month, when Consumer Reports ranked Vann's among the top online retailers for electronics in the country. That rating put the 48-year-old Montana business next to the likes of Best Buy and Amazon.com.

"It's definitely a milestone in a lot of ways," Ranta says. "We are experiencing sales and traffic akin to what we're used to and beating numbers from years past, which has been for a while—with the down economy—something that's difficult for everyone to achieve."

The good news at Vann's this holiday season mirrors the marked rise in e-commerce nationwide. According to marketing analysts at Coremetrics, online sales among "e-tailers" this Cyber Monday increased 13.7 percent over Cyber Monday 2008. Additional information from comScore Inc. shows a 5 percent increase over last year in post-Cyber-Monday sales.

Economic concerns, however, have negatively impacted one aspect of Internet sales: The average amount online shoppers spend per order has dropped 1 percent since 2008, as reported by comScore. A 6-percent increase in the total number of consumers has made up for the lag.

Ranta says the average order value at Vann's shows the same drop. Still, Christmas 2009 has brought the company to a turning point.

"We're hopeful that what's happened is that the things we've focused on for years—customer service, value, selection, the fact we're a tax-free seller—have in a way reached a critical mass for us and that the word will continue to spread," Ranta says.

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