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Europe will spend E2.6 billion ($2.22 billion) online this Christmas - equal to all online retail sales in Europe for 1999.

Despite the optimistic tone, it's still way off the predicted $10 billion (E11.7 billion) that punters in the US are expected to spend this season.

The latest research from Forrester claims that German retailers will lead the European e-spending table with sales of E715 million ($609 million), followed by Britain with E664 million ($566 million). France trundles in third with just E292 million ($249 million).

In all European countries, Christmas shopping will account for a major percentage of this year's total online sales - ranging from 23 per cent in Denmark to 39 per cent in Greece, said the research.

Forrester analyst Abigail Leland said: "As the number of online shoppers grows over time - in the first six months of the year alone, the number nearly doubled - retailers have found more justification to migrate their offer to the Net.

"In Europe's biggest Net economies like the UK, consumers have been online long enough for the effect to hit, and in countries like Spain and Italy, waves of free-ISP Internet initiates who first came online last Christmas will hit their first-year mark and make their first online purchases this holiday."

Earlier this month AOL UK said that claims its unmetered Net access service now available in Britain could trigger a shopping boom making this Britain's "first true e-Christmas". ®

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