U.S. online retailers expect sales to climb 22 percent to $172.4 billion in 2005, with cosmetics, perfume and other categories aimed at women likely to show the biggest gains, according to a survey released late on Monday.

The annual Forrester Research and Shop.org study of 136 retailers found that online sales rose 23.8 percent to $141.4 billion in 2004. Excluding sales of travel services, online sales were also up 23.8 percent, to $89 billion, representing 4.6 percent of total U.S. retail sales.

Profitability improved last year, with online retailers reporting operating margins of 28 percent, up from 21 percent in 2003, according to the survey.

The survey found that more women are shopping on the Internet, so categories with products they purchase will probably see the biggest sales growth this year.

"Though initially adopted by men as a shopping tool, women are flocking to the Internet in droves to comparison shop, research and buy," said Scott Silverman, executive director of Shop.org, the online retailing arm of the National Retail Federation trade group.

Looking ahead at online sales performance for various categories this year, the survey respondents on average said they expect increases of 33 percent for cosmetics and perfume, 32 percent for over-the-counter medications and personal care, and 31 percent for jewelry and luxury goods.

Source: Reuters