Christmas sales soar on Internet

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INTERNET COMMERCE, still in its infancy in Britain, is exploding in America. Sales of goods over the Internet this Christmas were three to four times up on last year, according to preliminary figures.

The Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and, the electronic retailers' industry group, estimated that revenue for the holiday season grew 230 per cent, with the average amount spent rising to $55. The Interpublic Group of Companies, an advertising group, estimated that online Christmas saleswould reach $5bn, four times higher than in 1997.

While this is still a tiny percentage of all shopping, it marks something of a milestone, according to firms thatmonitor online shopping.

"This holiday season marks the year that online retailing moved from an interesting consumer experiment to an accepted retail alternative," said BCG's vice-president, David Pecaut. "The 24 hour-a-day access to Internet stores, no crowds and the convenience of shipping gifts directly to family and friends have struck a chord with a rapidly growing segment of wired consumers."