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Clothes hunters helped grow US e-commerce by a quarter in 2006 - and there is no sign of that kind of increase letting up, according to a new report.

The e-commerce sector grew to $220bn, beating expectations by five percent but showing the same rate of growth seen in 2005, according to a survey conducted by Forrester for the National Retail Federation.

The biggest news was that sales of apparel, accessories and footwear displaced those of computer hardware and software as the top e-commerce category, accounting for $18.3bn over the second-placed category's $17.2bn.

Cars ($16.7bn), furniture ($10bn), computer peripherals (1.5bn) followed the top two.

The survey forecast that clothes will reach $22.1bn for 2007. The last few months have seen plenty of online attention for the likes of Crocs shoes and Kate Moss' fashion range.

Shop.org's Scotgt Silverman told the AP the industry had reached "a real milestone", and he told Reuters that, whilst the growth will have to slow at some point, retailers are merely beginning to realise the potential of the medium.

Overall e-commerce this year is expected to grow by 18% to $259bn, the survey forecast.

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