comScore Networks today reported its e-commerce sales estimates for the first six months of 2006 and forecasts for the entire year. From January through June, total online spending by consumers totaled $80.8 billion, representing a 20.1 percent increase over the same period in 2005. Online non-travel (retail) spending increased by 24.6 percent to $46.1 billion, while travel spending reached $34.7 billion, marking a 14.7 percent gain.

Several retail categories achieved significant growth compared to last year. Office Supplies, the top gaining retail category, saw online spending rise 54 percent, while Computer Software grew 39 percent. Also experiencing strong gains in the first half of 2006 were Sport & Fitness (up 38 percent), Home & Garden (up 36 percent), and Toys & Hobbies (up 33 percent).

Overall, comScore forecasts that total online spending in 2006 will reach approximately $170 billion. Of that total, comScore estimates that non-travel e-commerce spending will hit approximately $102 billion in 2006, breaking the $100 billion threshold for the first time. Approximately $24 billion is expected to be spent on non-travel during the 2006 holiday season (November 1st – December 31st).

“Despite the sluggishness of retail growth in general, online consumer spending remains strong,” noted Gian Fulgoni, Chairman and Co-Founder of comScore Networks. “Growth in non-travel online spending continues at a rate of 25 percent year-over-year, which suggests that consumers’ online purchase behavior has been relatively unaffected by the general economic trends. This news certainly bodes well for online retailers for the upcoming holiday season, with online consumer spending expected to reach $24 billion in the November through December period.”

Get the full story at comScore