America’s etailers are in for a bumper Christmas whatever happens to their offline counterparts, according to new research from comScore Networks.

The strength or otherwise of overall consumer spending over the holiday season is far from certain, but it seems that more of what consumers do spend will be via the internet.

In the first week after Thanksgiving, says comScore, internet sales rocketed 34% year-on-year to a record $2 billion (€2bn; £1.3bn). In contrast, chain store sales in the first week of December slipped 2.3%, according to Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi and UBS Warburg.

The online sales surge was attributed to increasing familiarity with the web and a reluctance to leave home during severe winter weather in some parts of the US.

This spending spree is expected to continue as Christmas approaches. ComScore estimates that internet sales in the last three months of 2002 will total $26bn, up 65% from the same period last year.

Moreover, a wider range of products is being bought online. As well as old favourites like books and CDs, says comScore vp Michelle David Adams, “consumers are buying more personal objects such as apparel and accessories, and jewellery and watches, two categories that demonstrate an increased comfort level with buying online.”

Data sourced from: BBC Online Business News (UK); additional content by WARC staff