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Online shopping surges before holiday

Precipitating the traditional start of the holiday season, online shopping gains steam in the week preceding Thanksgiving.

Precipitating the traditional start of the holiday season, online shopping gained steam in the week preceding Thanksgiving, according to a new survey by Goldman Sachs and PC Data Online.

Internet users shopping from their home computers spent about $274 million from Nov. 15 to Nov. 21, according to the two firms. That marked a $66 million increase over the previous week.

"We're seeing consistent growth, but the rate at which we're seeing it now we are attributing it to the holiday run-up," said Phil Daniels, senior Internet analyst at PC Data Online.

The survey estimated that about 440,000 home Net shoppers bought toys online during the week, making them the second most popular item after software. But visitors to toy sites were more likely to make purchases than visitors to other e-commerce sites. According to the study, more than 19 percent of online toy shoppers purchased from the sites they visited, compared with 16 percent of online book shoppers, the next highest category.

About 88.5 percent of all toy purchases, which totaled nearly $20 million, were for gifts, the survey said. Other popular gift categories included flowers and cards, electronics, apparel and sporting goods.

In terms of overall sales, the survey found that consumers bought more computer hardware than anything else online, totaling $81.8 million. The next most valuable area was computer software, which added up to $28.7 million in sales.

"Across the board, people are buying all sorts of things," said PC Data Online analyst Cameron Meierhoefer.

Goldman Sachs and PC Data Online conduct their survey weekly. This particular study polled about 2,800 consumers who connect to the Internet from home. According to Meierhoefer, the margin of error varies for each number within the survey according to how many users respond to each question.

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