By  on November 11, 2004

NEW YORK — Industry consulting and research firm comScore Networks is predicting online holiday shopping sales to swell to $15 billion this year, an increase of about 24 percent over last year.

The firm, which monitors consumer behavioral trends, said consumers are warming up to shopping online as their confidence also grows.

The report, released Wednesday, predicts apparel and accessories online purchases to come in behind computer-related buys. Year to date, online apparel and accessories sales are roughly $5.7 billion, up 27 percent over the same period last year.

Dan Hess, senior vice president of comScore Networks, said in a statement that there’s been a “dramatic increase in broadband penetration,” which is making it easier for consumers to buy over the Internet. He also said there’s “continuing efforts by retailers to simplify the shopping process across channels,” which will translate to “substantial gains for online merchants again this year.”

The Reston, Va.-based company utilizes technology and consumer habits year round to determine sales movements at retail.

The comScore forecast is well ahead of what analysts expect retail to deliver this year. Forecasts from several industry analysts and economists are calling for retail spending across all channels to rise between 3 and 5 percent.

ComScore typically tracks consumer spending patterns and habits worldwide. Consumer confidence and current macroeconomic trends determine where and how consumers shop, the company said.

“Online retailers will still close the year up at about 25 percent,” Hess said. “Compared to 2003, [that is] an impressive accomplishment, given the mixed signals of consumer confidence and a soft economy in general.”

Meanwhile, there is growing evidence that shows a shift in online shopping for items traditionally purchased in stores. Home appliances, garden items, furniture and even fine jewelry and watches are expected to see higher online purchases this season, the firm predicted.

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