Nov. 30, 2004--While Black Friday marks the traditional start of the holiday retail season, online shopping visits as a percentage of overall Web traffic were actually higher on Thanksgiving Day this year, according to a new report.

Shopping and classifieds websites claimed 11.39% of all U.S. visits this Thanksgiving, according to online information service Hitwise, breaking the 2003 high of 8.96% also set on Thanksgiving Day. For the first time, Hitwise said, U.S. visits to retail websites exceeded 10% of total Internet traffic, accounting for 11.39, 11.03 and 10.74%, respectively, on Nov. 25, 26 and 27 of this year.

"The revelation that Thanksgiving is the busiest day for visits to online shopping sites is a great example of how the Internet is changing not only retailing, but our personal lives," said Bill Tancer, vice president of research for Hitwise, in a statement. "The data confirm that online shopping has significantly impacted a longstanding shopping tradition."

Hitwise said that the market share of U.S. visits to the entire shopping category on Thanksgiving Day this year was up 27% versus Thanksgiving Day last year, and shopping visits on Black Friday rose 24% year-on-year. Appliances, electronics and computer retailers were among the categories cited that saw the most pronounced increases in site visits on Thanksgiving Day versus Black Friday.

"The dichotomy of visits to retail sites suggests that consumers are researching higher-ticket items such as computers and electronics on Thanksgiving before heading out to stores on Friday," Tancer said. "Conversely, non-tech items like home goods, books and beauty continue to dominate online shopping traffic on Black Friday."