comScore Networks reported its U.S. e-commerce sales estimates for the third quarter of 2006 and forecast for the entire year. In the third quarter, online non-travel (“retail”) spending increased to $23.1 billion (up 23 percent), while travel spending – despite a slowing growth rate – nonetheless reached $18.2 billion (up 9 percent). Overall, total online spending by consumers reached $41.3 billion in the third quarter, representing a 16-percent increase versus the same period in 2005.

While total non-travel spending rose 23 percent, some retail categories far outperformed the average, including Consumer Electronics (excluding PC Peripherals), which rose 42 percent and Apparel & Accessories, up 32 percent versus the same quarter last year. The Sport & Fitness and Computer Software (excluding PC games) categories rose 29 percent and 27 percent, respectively.

Through the first three quarters of 2006, total e-commerce spending rose 19 percent versus last year to $122.1 billion, buoyed by a 24-percent increase in non-travel spending to $69.1 billion. Online travel spending increased 13 percent to $52.9 billion.

Overall, comScore currently forecasts that total consumer online spending in 2006 should reach approximately $170 billion. Of that total, comScore estimates that non-travel e-commerce will break the $100 billion threshold for the first time.

“Online consumer spending at U.S. sites – and particularly non-travel spending – remains strong,” noted Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore Networks. “With year-over-year growth rates in U.S. online non-travel spending at about 23 percent in the third quarter, the Web continues flexing its muscle as one of the important drivers of retail sales growth.”

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