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'Tis the Season for Online Shopping Records - InternetNews.
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'Tis the Season for Online Shopping Records

Bargain hunters hit retail Web sites by the tens of millions on Friday, kicking off the holiday shopping season in record numbers, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.

Visitors to digital storefronts increased 11 percent the day after Thanksgiving, compared to the same day last year, according to the e-shopping index.

The Friday following Thanksgiving is known as "Black Friday" in the retail world, because of the heavy sales traffic generated after the national holiday.

"Online shoppers deluged the Web sites of their favorite brick-and-mortar stores, as well as online retail resources such as BF2004.net, which provided ad updates on Black Friday sales and promotions," said Ken Cassar, an analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings. "People go to the sites so they can shop more efficiently."

One reason multi-channel retails continue to grow, according to Cassar, is consumers use them to prepare for trips to the store, as well as for transactions.

Traditionally, the biggest shopping day of the year - although the Saturday before Christmas now vies for the title -- Friday saw the highest number of online action so far this season.

Toys and video games made the biggest splash, increasing traffic by 152 percent compared to the previous Friday.

Nearly 13.3 million more people, or 26 percent, visited online stores than the previous Friday, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, which tracks activity at 109 key retail and shopping sites across 10 categories.

Big names once again led the way in audience numbers, as online giant eBay topped the destination chart with 5.4 million unique viewers. Amazon was second with 2.6 million, while Wal-Mart Stores had 1.4 million shoppers. Rounding out the Top 5 sites were Target and BestBuy.com with 923,000 and 847,000 unique audience, respectively.

After toys and video games, consumer electronics sites were second in increased traffic with 94 percent, while shopping comparison portals rose 75 percent. Computer hardware and software rose 54 percent, while books, music, and video rose 50 percent.

The fastest growing product categories on Black Friday were traditional gift categories that can be easily found and purchased, said Cassar.

"We expect to see continued growth in these areas, along with the flowers/gifts category increasing in shopping activity a bit later in the season."