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Working 9 to 5...with a shopping cart

With just a click separating spreadsheets from shopping carts, people are using their 9-to-5 work time to get holiday shopping done, according to a Nielsen/NetRatings study.

With just a click separating spreadsheets from shopping carts, people are using their 9-to-5 work time to get holiday shopping done, according to a Nielsen/NetRatings study released Thursday.

Almost half of all online holiday shopping--46 percent--is happening at work, while 54 percent is done from home, according to the study.

At KBkids.com, for example, 61 percent of the site's traffic came from offices, while 39 percent of traffic came from homes. At Borders.com, 59 percent of Web traffic came from folks at work and 40 percent from people at home. At Ashford.com, the ratio was 56.5 percent from work and 43.5 percent from home.

"It's similar to what we see in the financial markets," said Sean Kaldor, VP of e-commerce for Nielsen/NetRatings. "A huge volume of stock trading takes place during the work day as well."

While this may not be the best news for employers, it is certainly welcome news to online retailers.

By attracting shoppers at work, online retailers are able to expand their customer bases to include those people without computers at home or people with slow Internet connections who find shopping online frustrating.

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This not only drives more traffic to Web sites but also spreads out the time when shopping takes place and thus takes the strain off individual networks.

"If everyone did their shopping between 5 (p.m.) and 8 (p.m.) that would be a huge strain on the system," Kaldor said.

Nielson/NetRatings calculates its numbers by tracking 65,000 people at home and 8,000 people at work. Tracking software installed by the research group follows where people surf, how long they stay at any single location, and when they make purchases.

The Nielsen/NetRatings Holiday E-Commerce index increased 16 percent in the week ended December 3. Traffic to specialty gift sites surged the most, showing an increase of 80 percent over the prior week. Traffic at Ashford.com rose 385 percent, while RedEnvelope.com more than doubled.

Overall, online shopping has increased 62 percent since the start of the holidays.