Online shoppers have given US retailers a holiday boost in the weeks from Thanksgiving through Christmas.

Analysts' figures show internet sales increased by 25% on the same period in 2003, with online purchases hitting a massive $23.2 billion (€17.2bn, £12.1bn).

Clothing was the most popular online purchase according to figures released this week by Goldman Sachs, Harris Interactive and Nielsen/NetRatings. It was followed by toys and video games and consumer electronics.

Says Heather Dougherty, retail analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings: "Consumers look to the internet to find comprehensive product information, competitive prices and easy gift delivery allowing them to have more time to spend on other holiday activities."

Meanwhile, the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart, an accurate barometer of shopping health in the US, reported robust sales.

The company, which lowered its forecast to between 1% and 3% growth for December, says its aggressive marketing and discounting campaigns pushed sales to the top end of the revised scale.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff