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Holiday e-shopping sets record

Online spending, excluding travel, reached a record $15.8 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 19, according to the most recent "eSpending" survey by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings.

Holiday online spending, excluding travel, reached a record $15.8 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 19, according to the most recent "eSpending" survey by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings, released Monday.

That is up 37 percent from the same period last year and already surpasses total 2002 online spending of $13 billion between Nov. 1 and Dec. 25.

"This has definitely been a strong online-shopping season," said Abha Bhagat, senior analyst with Nielsen/NetRatings.

Bhagat attributed the impressive showing to consumers starting their online shopping earlier and spending more online, taking advantage of discounts and promotions by e-tailers.

Online shopping peaked the second week in December, as the holiday shipping season came to an end. Consumers spent $2.8 billion online for the week of Dec. 13 through the 19th, down slightly from the $2.95 billion spent online the previous week.

The most popular categories this season were apparel, $3.1 billion spent through Dec. 19, up 40 percent over 2002; toys and video games, $1.9 billion spent, up 21 percent; videos and DVDs, $1.4 billion spent, up 58 percent; books, $1.4 billion spent, up 39 percent; and music, $790 million spent, up 20 percent.

Bhagat said those are the same as last year's most popular categories.

The eSpending reports are based on weekly national surveys of 800 to 1,700 online shoppers. The final report covering holiday online spending through Christmas Day will be released Jan. 6.