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Online holiday sales appear bright

The Grinch apparently won't steal the upcoming shopping season from Web retailers: Consumers should spend more money online than ever before, market research shows.

    Despite the sluggish economy, holiday shoppers will spend more money online than ever before, according to new market research.

    GartnerG2 predicts that shoppers will make more than a quarter of their holiday purchases online. Of the $800 the average shopper is expected to spend on gifts, about $235 will be spent over the Internet, researchers said.

    In a survey of 1,317 adults in the United States, GartnerG2 found that convenience was the biggest draw of online shopping. Consumers said they like online shopping because they can reach stores 24 hours a day and can avoid long lines at the malls.

    "Saving time and effort in gift-buying activities was cited by consumers as the No.1 reason why they opt to go online for a portion of their gift purchasing," David Schehr, research director for GartnerG2, said in a statement.

    "Retailers emphasizing the online channel this holiday season should continue to focus marketing messages and site design toward making the buying experience as fast and easy as possible," Schehr added.

    Survey respondents were not particularly motivated by gift suggestions or the ability to send presents directly to other people, according to the study.

    Retailers are hoping the holidays will provide them with a sales boost during the economic slowdown.

    Overall, GartnerG2 expects online holiday sales to rise this year. The research group predicts worldwide sales over the Internet will jump 48 percent to $38.2 billion in 2002 from $25.7 billion last year. Holiday shoppers spent $18.2 billion online in 2000, GartnerG2 noted.