Holiday Shoppers Start Spending Early on Web

NEW YORK Web surfers got a head start on their holiday shopping, spending $8.5 billion on the Internet last month, according to a joint report from Goldman Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings.

That figure, which excludes travel purchases, represents an increase of 55 percent over the year-ago period.

The November data, based on more than 4,700 responses, found that people began their online holiday shopping earlier this year. Fifty-one percent said that they started last month, jumping from 43 percent during the same time last year.

The most popular goods: videos, DVDs, books, music, toys and video games. Online shoppers spent $758 million on videos and DVDs last month, up 133 percent from last year. They doled out $761 million for books in the same four-week period, a 61 percent increase over the year-ago period. The music and toys/video games categories brought in $875 million and $402 million, respectively.

More than 50 percent of the respondents went directly to a retail site. Others used search engines and shopping portals for direction. Thirty-seven percent logged on to Google to search for online retailers, while 27 percent and 25 percent visited eBay and Yahoo! Search for that purpose, respectively.

“Shopping portals and search engines are attracting many consumers who rely on the Web to navigate through product offerings and efficiently research pricing and features,” said Abha Bhagat, senior analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings, a part of Adweek parent VNU.