Goldman, Sachs & Co., Nielsen//NetRatings and Harris Interactive’s Holiday eSpending Report revealed today that 54 percent, or the majority of online shoppers finished their holiday shopping by December 16th (vs. 37% by December 9th), with 10 percent of shoppers still waiting to begin. The holiday spending total reached $25 billion, excluding travel, during the first seven weeks (October 29 – December 16) of the 2005 holiday season.

Thus far in 2005, U.S. online holiday spending resulted in a 25 percent increase (+/- 3.1 percent margin of error) from the same time period in 2004. The eSpending Report is based on a weekly national survey of approximately 1,000 online adult consumers, capturing consumer spending, attitudes and motivations of more than 7,500 shoppers during the first seven weeks of the 2005 holiday season.

“In recent years, consumers shop online later and later in the holiday season making the week prior to the holidays the peak in online holiday shopping, with over half of shoppers completing all of their purchases,” said Heather Dougherty, senior retail analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. “With guaranteed delivery by December 24th and additional discounts and incentives, online retailers continue to court shoppers until late in the season, looking to capture sales before shoppers turn to stores on Friday and Saturday for last minute purchases,” she continued.

According to this week’s eSpending Report, online shoppers have spent the most on apparel/clothing thus far in the 2005 holiday season, totaling $4.7 billion, which was the majority, or 17 percent, of total online revenue. The computer hardware/peripherals and consumer electronics categories placed second and third, with revenue totals of $3.7 billion each. Books and toys/video games rounded out the top five product categories, accounting for a respective $2.6 billion and $1.9 billion in online revenue.

During the seventh week of the 2005 holiday retail season, the Holiday eSpending Report asked more than 1,000 consumers which search engine or shopping portal they used to locate online stores in the past week. Nearly half of holiday shoppers, 45.2 percent, went directly to an online retailer by typing its URL. Other popular means of finding online stores were using search engines such as Google, 40.5 percent, and Yahoo! 20.9%, or going to sites with multiple retailers, such as eBay, 23.4 percent and Amazon, 25.1 percent.

“Like their offline counterparts, online shoppers have favorite retailers that they frequently visit. They are very familiar with the retailer’s brand name and tend to go directly to their sites,” said Dougherty. “However, some gifts may involve more research, in which case search engines and shopping comparison sites come into play. Most shoppers use a variety of channels to get their holiday shopping done,” she continued.

In week seven, the majority of holiday shoppers noted that they are satisfied with their overall 2005 shopping experience with 71 percent noting that they have felt very or somewhat satisfied. Only eight percent of consumers cited they were either very dissatisfied or somewhat dissatisfied.