UK Internet spending increased by 28.9% in 2005 as online sales neared the totals for department stores. Consumers bought 8.2 bln pounds ($14.31 bln) worth of goods online, nearing the 9.4 bln pounds ($16.40 bln) spent in department stores, Verdict Research said. Overall retail spending grew by just 1.5%. Shoppers spent 3.9 bln pounds ($6.81 bln) more in 2005 than in 2004, and 1.8 bln pounds ($3.14 bln) of that was spent on the Internet. 25% of UK consumers now purchases items online. In 2005, 14.6 mln people shopped on the Internet, a 25.5% increase on 2004. The fastest growing age group of Internet shoppers was those 55+, nearly doubling to 2.7 mln people in 2005. Verdict reported the highest-spending age group as 35- to 44-year-olds, responsible for 30% of online spending, totaling 2.3 bln pounds ($4.01 bln) in 2005. Internet shopping is also more popular among women, with the average female spending 579 pounds ($1,010) in the year, though men were not far behind with an average of 543 pounds ($947).