Nov. 4, 2004--The 2004 holiday season could be a robust one for online merchants, according to a report released Tuesday.

Online retailers can expect to see a significant jump in the amount consumers will spend over the Internet during the next two months compared to previous years, according to eMarketer, an online research company. In its "Online Holiday Shopping Report," the company projected that consumers will spend $16.7 billion online this year during the holiday shopping months of November and December, an increase of 29.3% over same period in 2003.

The report claimed that Internet users are shifting more of their holiday spending from traditional stores and catalogs to retail Web sites. It also suggested that consumers are using the Internet more frequently as a shopping tool to compare prices for a particular item, even though they will often still go to a store to actually purchase the item.

Clothing and apparel are the items most often purchased online, according to the report, which also pointed to "food and wine" and "flowers and gifts" as the fastest growing online gift categories.

The report also stated that the online shopping community is increasingly representative of the diversity of the American public, as the Internet becomes more and more mainstream.