NEW YORK — So much for Net expectations.

Three of the five cities with the greatest share of online purchasers are ones where brick-and-mortar stores abound — Seattle, Boston and New York — not where such choices are limited. Internet users ages 35 to 49 currently account for most online buying, by age group, or about 43 percent of purchases in December — not the youth-driven group once anticipated by e-tailers. And women are dominating online buying, now accounting for about 60 percent of people making purchases on the Net, and 52 percent of users, debunking the long-running myth of male cybershoppers’ supremacy.

Those virtual gems were unearthed by Nielsen/NetRatings in a research report disclosed Wednesday called "The Demographic Characteristics of An Online Buyer — Who’s Buying Online."

Although the millennial generation, or those ages 8 to 26, are heavy users of the Internet, especially the teen and above portion which has sizable discretionary income, they are continuing to do less purchasing online than once was expected. Those ages 18 to 24 accounted for only 5.1 percent of those buying something online in December; those age 17 and below, just 2.6 percent. In contrast, the second-biggest share of e-buyers were 25- to 34-year-olds, representing a 25.5 percent share of online purchasers in December, while 50- to 64-year-olds marked a 20.3 percent portion.

In the report on Internet demographics, Nielsen/NetRatings chief analyst Lisa Strand noted, "Adults ages 50 to 64 — stereotypically cast as a less important portion of the online shopping population — represent a major customer base for online retailers to court aggressively."

Curiously, the online population residing in areas outside the 35 largest metropolitan areas were less likely to buy online than those who live in one of those 35 locales. This finding, Strand stated, "points to the fact that shopping online is as much about convenience and saving time as it is about having access to shopping opportunities."

Looking past the big picture, N/NR scoped in on four mass e-tailers, three of which have a presence in the bricks-and-mortar world:,, and The fourth,, continues to post a link with (as Target does with Amazon) and to offer more than 500 fashion brands at its own apparel and accessories store, launched in November.Among those destinations in December, the Target and Wal-Mart sites drew the largest share of women transacting purchases, at home and at work combined, at 74.1 percent and 66.5 percent of the sites’ purchasers respectively, while Target and Amazon drew the most affluent online shoppers, male and female. At, 34.7 percent of those buying something had annual household income between $75,000 and $100,000 — the largest slice of its purchasers. And at Amazon, 20.1 percent of purchasers had annual household income between $100,000 and $150,000 — the second-biggest share of its purchasers — after those in the $50,000 to $75,000 range, who made 24.8 percent of the site’s transactions in December.

Amazon’s share of the affluent, Strand observed, serves as a reminder that the upper-income group likes a bargain (plus selection and convenience) as much as any other income break, while Target’s successful claim to cheap chic and alliances with various designers are still luring a well-heeled crowd. On Wednesday, for instance, was trumpeting its newly arrived Liz Lange maternity line on its home page.

Curiously, is most compelling to shoppers with household income of $50,000 to $75,000 annually, a group representing 35 percent of the site’s purchasers in December, followed by those in the $75,000 to $100,000 bracket, representing 23.8 percent. also found that the biggest share of its customers buying something in December had household income between $50,000 and $75,000, or 23.9 percent, followed closely by the 21.1 percent with income between $25,000 and $50,000.

The Sears site had the smallest share of women purchasers in December, among the four studied by N/NR, at 52.4 percent. But that share may expand this year, with the ongoing presence of Lands’ End, acquired by Sears, Roebuck & Co., last May; its proprietary Covington brand, and French Toast school uniforms. Sears added apparel to its Web site well after and

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