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Online Retailers Cashing In

Holiday cheer is spilling over the Internet and directly into the ledgers of e-tailers.

The latest Goldman, Sachs/Nielsen//NetRatings and Harris Interactive Holiday eSpending Report said online shoppers have spent $18.6 billion in the first six weeks of the 2005 holiday season.

So far, this year's U.S. online spending saw a jump of 16 percent from the same time period in 2004, with 19 percent of consumers having indicated that they have yet to start their holiday shopping.

Shoppers are spending most of their gift funds on apparel/clothing too, which accounted for 17 percent in the stats.

"Apparel and consumer electronics are consistently among the most popular gifts purchased during the holidays, resulting in the largest share of online revenue," Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst for Nielsen//NetRatings, wrote in the report.

The consumer electronics and computer hardware/peripherals categories placed second and third with revenue totals of $2.8 billion and $2.7 billion, respectively.

Sales in the computer hardware category have been fueled by aggressive discounting on items, such as PCs and laptops, according to Dougherty.

"The combination of well-known brands and retailers in the top categories strongly complement and drive online sales, because consumers trust and have confidence in both," she said.

The report is based on a weekly national survey of approximately 1,000 online adult consumers, capturing consumer spending, attitudes and motivations of more than 6,500 shoppers during the first six weeks of the 2005 holiday season, the company said.

Rounding out the best sellers were books and toys/video games, accounting for a respective $2.2 billion and $1.4 billion in online revenue.

Online sales were expected to hit nearly $20 billion this year.

As online retail continues to mature as a sales channel, shoppers are provided the luxury of waiting to make purchases until the last couple weeks of the season, according to Dougherty.

"Online retailers are extending shipping deadlines later each year, which provides ample time to comparison shop for the best deal. Price remains one of the biggest motivators online and is reflected in large spikes in audience traffic," Dougherty said.