Tech Industry

Happy holidays for online retailers

Consumers flocked to the Internet in late 2004, and they brought their wallets with them, a new report says.

Online holiday sales were up 25 percent this year over last, according to a new report.

The report, from Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings, said U.S. holiday shoppers spent $23.2 billion online, not including travel. That's up one-quarter from the $18.5 billion spent last year.

Analysts said shoppers went online for the usual reasons: variety, convenience and price. And while e-commerce used to be stymied by fears of credit card fraud and other perceived or real online shopping hazards, the Internet now benefits from mainstream familiarity.

"Online shopping contributed significantly to overall 2004 holiday sales by attracting consumers through a broad product selection," Nielsen/NetRatings analyst Heather Dougherty said in a statement. "Consumers have become accustomed to purchasing online over the years and look to the Internet to find comprehensive product information, competitive prices and easy gift delivery allowing them to have more time to spend on other holiday activities."

The firms' 2004 eSpending report covers the period from Nov. 1 to Dec. 26. It follows earlier, almost identical figures from VeriSign, which showed holiday sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas up 24 percent.

Individual retailers reported a surge in holiday spending. Amazon last week said it set a single-day record for an unspecified holiday season day, selling more than 2.8 million units, with consumer electronics surpassing book sales over the Thanksgiving weekend to become its biggest sales category--a first for the company.

According to the eSpending report, online shoppers spent $3.8 billion on clothing or apparel, for 16 percent of the total. Next came toys and video games at $2.5 billion, or 11 percent. Consumer electronics came in a close third, accounting for $2.3 billion, or 10 percent.

Consumers spent $2.1 billion on computer hardware and peripherals this holiday season, up nearly a third over last year.