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Consumers pumped the Internet during the holiday season, pushing online sales to record highs.

From November 1 to December 12, online shoppers forked over more than $13 billion, excluding travel sales. This is a 46 percent jump over last year's total, and the revenue sum is sure to surge even higher after the last two weeks of December are counted. Some of the top sellers on the Web are clothing, videos/DVDs, consumer electronics, toys/video games and books, according to an "eSpending" survey from Goldman, Sachs & Co., Harris Interactive, and Nielsen/NetRatings. (You would think three analyst firms could pool their talents and come up with a better survey name but no such luck.)

While the music industry appears intent on shutting down online sales, its movie industry cohorts should be cheering on the Web. Video and DVD sales surged 89 percent year-on-year to account for $1.2 billion. Clothing makes up the bulk of Internet sales with $2.5 billion in revenue this year - a 35 percent jump from 2002. Toys and video games pulled in $1.6 billion, consumer electronics accounted for $1.4 billion and books brought in an even $1 billion. All categories enjoyed a healthy increase in sales this year.

On average, holiday shoppers dropped 21 percent of their spending budget on the Web. This is yet another increase over the 16 percent of the budget from last year.

"Online retailers have seen a strong season so far," said Abha Bhagat, senior analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings. "The higher levels of customer satisfaction and increased consumer spending online point to the fact that the online channel is no longer a disruptive technology medium but another mainstream channel through which retailers reach out to customers."

And with that quotation the harsh realities of the Internet's place in the shopping kingdom are made all too clear. How companies such as Amazon.com must long for the days when analysts championed the Internet as the greatest of all disruptive technologies - a glorious vacuum for dog food dollars and unfettered toothpaste spends. But now we're told that the Internet is not a disruptive technology at all. Instead, it's just another in a long list of places to dump some cash. ®

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