The 2006 holiday shopping period got off to a strong start in the US over the weekend, according to several e-commerce operators.
The Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday is typically seen as the start of the holiday sales season in the US and retail outlets across the nation see some of the largest crowds of the year on that day. In recent years, online retailers also report strong traffic on that day.
While consumers may be opening their wallets to online retailers like never before, there's also evidence they are after bargains to be had too. Two online price-comparison sites, which point consumers to the lowest prices for various items, reported surging traffic.
Pricegrabber.com said it's seen a 45 percent increase year-over-year in referrals to merchants for November to date. In some categories, including toys, sporting goods and apparel, the amount of traffic sent to retailers by Pricegrabber has more than doubled, it said.
Rival site Shopping.com reported a 40 percent jump in November-to-date referrals to online retailers and said hot categories include kids and family, home and garden, and clothing and accessories.
Despite the strong traffic, today is likely to be busier, said Shopping.com. Last year visitors to the site peaked between noon and 2pm. on Monday.
Two of the season's hottest holiday gift items, the recently-launched PlayStation 3 and Wii games consoles, have been selling fast on eBay. In the week to 24 November, 14,675 PlayStation 3 and 26,708 Wii consoles were sold through the site. The average price of the PS3 was $1,186.39 (£615) while the Wii fetched an average $412.53 (£215), according to eBay Marketplace Research. Both prices are well above their suggested retail prices.
Other hot electronics items include the Samsung Electronics BDP-1000 Blu-ray Disc player and Apple's iPod nano and iPod Shuffle, the company said.