The holiday season was full of festive cheer for US online retailers as sales soared 30% compared with the same period in 2004.

Internet shopping notched $30.1 billion (€25.44bn; £17.44bn) in sales during the period from October 29 through December 23, according to researcher Nielsen/NetRatings, in association with Goldman Sachs and Harris Interactive.

The figures reveal that around 33% of US households made online purchases, an estimated 10% more than last year. The most popular items were clothes, totalling $5.3bn, up 42% from 2004.

Sharing second place were the computer hardware and peripherals category along with consumer electronics, both of which more than doubled in sales to $4.8bn. Consumers snapped up laptop computers and plasma TVs, as well as digital music players and digital cameras.

Books and toys/videogames rounded out the top five product categories, respectively garnering $3bn and $2.3bn in online revenues.

Online giants Amazon and eBay continued to dominate, but Wal-Mart, the world's biggest traditional retailer, came third in the internet shopping stakes.

Comments Donna Hoffman, from the Sloan Center for Internet Retailing: "There is no question this was a really good year." She adds that user-friendly sites with more products have "removed the final barriers" to online purchases.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff