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Britain leads Europe in online shopping

More than 10 million British Web surfers visited e-commerce sites over the holidays, and women tend to spend more time on the Web at home than men, a study shows.

More than 10 million British Web surfers visited e-commerce sites over the holidays last December--an increase of 3 million compared with the number of online shoppers in December 2000.

The 10 million online shoppers accounted for nearly 70 percent of the U.K. Internet population.

The figures, released in a study published by Internet research firm NetValue on Tuesday, put Britain way ahead in the online retail market in Europe.

Of the 10 million, nearly 3 million people made a secure connection. This was an increase of nearly 1 million over the number of purchases made online during the holidays in 2000. A secure connection implies that a person's credit card details were entered online, suggesting that a purchase was made.

According to the NetValue report, the United Kingdom now has the highest visitor-to-purchase conversion rate of any European country. Twenty-nine percent of British customers visiting e-tail sites in December went on to make a secure connection, while just 6 percent of Italians visiting shopping sites, and 8 percent of Swedes, were enticed into doing so.

Scandinavia failed to live up to its reputation of leading the way in e-commerce by demonstrating very low online sales figures in December 2001. Only 40 percent of the Swedish Internet population visited online retailers throughout the holidays.

The NetValue study discovered that the average British woman spent more time on the Internet at home than the average man online in December 2001. Although men had more separate online sessions, the average female spent five minutes longer on the Internet during each session.

Wendy McAuliffe reported from London.