US online retail sales this holiday season will reach $33 billion, a 21 percent increase over last year, according to Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). The survey of 2,500 online consumers analyzed spending plans across eight retail categories.

Among the findings of this year’s survey:

  • Apparel and accessories will top holiday shopping lists — 80 percent of respondents said that they would purchase something in this category online during the upcoming holiday season.
  • A majority of consumers have a continued interest in free shipping promotions — 61 percent of online consumers said that they are more likely to shop online with a retailer that offers free shipping.
  • Fewer consumers are willing to pay for “frills” like gift wrap or overnight delivery this year — only 26 percent of consumers said they would pay for expedited delivery prior to the holiday season, down from 45 percent who said they would do so in 2006.
  • Gift cards promise to be a big winner during the 2007 holiday season — 18 percent of online consumers said that they plan to spend more on gift cards this year, compared with last year.

“Retailers should have an action plan in place for how best to take advantage of gift cards following Christmas and through January, which is known to be the most active redemption period,” said Forrester Research Principal Analyst Sucharita Mulpuru. “Online retailers that are ready to capture those customers will likely be able to maintain relatively strong sales, in spite of the traditional Q1 seasonal dip.”

Forrester defines the holiday shopping season as the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The report “Outlook For US Online Retail: Holiday 2007” is available to Forrester RoleView clients and can also be purchased directly at