British women now spend more than men on internet shopping, according to a new study from retail specialist Verdict Research.

Female web shoppers spent an average of £495 ($944; $734) online in 2003, a rise of 71.4% on the year before. For the first time this puts them ahead of the men, who spent an average of £470.

"Though surfing the net has long been seen as a male-orientated activity, this is no longer the case for e-retail," declared Verdict, "Women's inclination to shop has become the main driver of online sales growth."

There is also an age gap in the ecommerce sector, with older web users of both sexes spending far more than their younger counterparts. The average over-55 internet shopper purchased more than £527 of goods and services online last year, higher than any other age range.

"[Over-55s] have a disposable income and are able to accept deliveries during the day," the study continued. "Many more affluent pensioners have adopted the internet as a hobby and enjoy surfing the net for cheap prices and good deals."

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