Spain’s, a governmental body within the Ministry of Industry, Tourism and Commerce whose mission is to contribute to the development of an information society, conducted a survey of Internet users in early 2006. Based on the survey’s results, retail e-commerce sales in Spain totaled an estimated Eur2.1 billion ($2.7 billion) in 2005.

Between 2000 and 2005, Spain’s online sales of products and services grew at a 60% annual rate. But to put things in perspective, Spain’s e-commerce sales lag well behind those of the three regional heavyweights: the UK, Germany and France.

In 2005, one in four Internet users in Spain had purchased goods over the Internet, translating into a total of 4.3 million online buyers. The average online buyer over 15 years old bought about Eur495, ($614) worth of goods last year on the Internet. This amounts to a 6.7% increase over the Eur464 spent per online buyer in 2004.

In the second quarter of 2005, Forrester Research estimated the number of online buyers in European countries and arrived at a lower number than did for Spain. According to Forrester, less than one in five Spanish Internet users were online buyers. Variations in estimates between market research organizations are bound to occur as a result of different survey methodologies and population bases, but this does not diminish the impact of Forrester’s research showing that Spain lags behind its European peers in this important measurement of e-commerce development.

By far, transportation tickets are the most popular online purchase in Spain, with nearly 23% of online buyers indicating that they had bought airline, boat, bus or train tickets on the Internet. Even so, the percentage of online buyers who book travel online should rise as consumers in the 50-plus age bracket become more comfortable with e-commerce. Travel is popular with semi- and fully retired individuals, and today more than ever this age group is financially secure, seeking adventure and enjoying good health. Also, as more women come online, shopping categories heavily purchased by females, such as clothing, home decorations and cosmetics and perfume, will rise in importance.