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Consumers' Net spending on the rise

Several recent studies show that e-commerce is surviving despite the gloom hanging over many online retailers.

Recent studies show that e-commerce is surviving despite the gloom hanging over many online retailers.

Total spending over the Web increased to $3.5 billion in March from $3.4 billion in February, according to a study released Wednesday by Forrester Research. The finding echoed another study released earlier this week by Nielsen/Net Ratings, which tallied last month's Web spending at more than $3.5 billion, a jump of 35 percent from the $2.6 billion spent in April 2000.

Internet goliath Amazon.com led the e-tailing market in March, nabbing 15.1 percent of all online buyers, according to Nielsen/Net Ratings. Online auctioneer eBay trailed closely behind at 14.5 percent, and music store BMG.com rounded out the top three with 4.3 percent.

On Tuesday, Amazon posted a smaller-than-expected first-quarter loss, an achievement fueled by strong electronics sales that helped balance out weakness in its books, video and music departments.

Although most e-tailing shops have stumbled or have gone under altogether, some analysts see hope for the sector.

Market analysis firm IDC, for one, released a new study saying that the number of e-commerce sites will double in the next four years and that e-commerce spending by consumers will grow from $118 billion worldwide this year to $707 billion in 2005. The sector is showing steady growth rates, primarily among brick-and-mortar retailers that are still focused on selling to consumers over the Web, IDC said.

According to the study by Forrester, which measures the growth of online shopping monthly using data collected from Internet shoppers, consumers spent an average of $263 per person in March, compared with $248 in February. Online dollars went primarily to software, books and music, along with bigger-ticket items such as computer hardware and electronics.

Nielsen/Net Ratings, a well-known Internet-audience tracking service, found in its new study that e-commerce has hit the mainstream, with online purchases coming from 48.2 percent of all Americans over 18 years old, or 100.2 million people.

Travel and clothing purchases accounted for a healthy portion of the roughly $3.5 billion spent online in March, according to the Nielsen/Net Ratings report. Online travel spiked nearly 60 percent to more than $1 billion, while clothing and apparel jumped to $368 million. Nielsen/Net Ratings, which worked with Internet market researcher Harris Interactive on the study, collected its findings from a March survey of 39,000 U.S.-based Web users.