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Internet top shopping destination for holiday season

Jean Chisser plans to spend $1,200 on power tools, jewelry, theater tickets, and other gifts for her family this holiday season. And she intends to buy it all without ever stepping foot into a store.

Chisser, 55, of Middleborough is among millions of shoppers across the country — including 54 percent in Greater Boston — who plan to buy at least some Christmas presents online this year, making the Internet America’s most popular holiday shopping destination for the first time, according to an annual survey by Deloitte Consulting of New York.

The Internet jumped ahead of discount department stores this year to become the survey’s most popular national retail category. Deloitte tracked consumer preferences for 15 shopping venues, from toy stores to outlet shops to supermarkets.

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The Deloitte consumer survey, which has gauged holiday spending intentions for the past 28 years, polled 5,018 shoppers this year, including 500 from Greater Boston.

Chisser, like most digital shoppers, is drawn to sites that offer free shipping and prefers to buy from the comfort of her home to avoid the stress of the shopping mall.

“I don’t have to drive,” said Chisser, an administrator for the Boston College Alumni Association. “I don’t have to park. I don’t have to deal with the crowds. This is just so much easier.”

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst with the NPD Group, a market research firm in New York, said retailers are adding to the popularity of online shopping with a new approach this season. In addition to doorbusters and other offerings to drive consumers into stores, companies are also promoting early deals through their websites to attract more Internet shoppers.

Walmart.com, for example, began offering Black Friday doorbuster-like deals on Nov. 1.

“Online retailers are offering new deals on new days,” Cohen said. “Shopping online is going to get a huge lift because the game has changed.”

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Shop.org, the digital arm of the National Retail Federation, found that half of the retailers that participated in its annual eHoliday survey planned to begin offering Thanksgiving weekend deals online at least five days early. The website estimates that consumers will spend as much as $82 billion on Internet holiday purchases in November and December, up as much as 15 percent from last year.

Boston consumers in particular have been ahead of the digital shopping curve. This season marks the second consecutive time the Internet has topped Deloitte’s Boston-area list of expected holiday shopping venues.

Additional survey questions also showed Boston-area consumers were feeling better about their finances and preparing to spend more than others around the country during the holiday season.

“The biggest difference from the national survey is that 82 percent of Boston consumers are inclined to spend the same or more this year,” said Kate Ferrara, who leads Deloitte’s retail practice team for Boston. “Overall people in Boston are more comfortable with the economy, they’re spending more money and continuing to be optimistic.”

Bostonians intend to increase holiday spending by 24 percent this year, doubling the national average of 12 percent, and dish out an average of $1,457 on gifts, social events, home entertaining, holiday clothing, and home decor, according to the survey.

Vanessa Marcotte, 24, said she is going to spend $1,000 on GoPro cameras, tablets, and other yet to be determined gifts, nearly doubling the average most Bostonians plan to spend on gifts alone.

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And she pledges to do all her shopping online, with one exception.

Marcotte, who works in online marketing, is among the 70 percent of Bostonians who say they want to buy local this year. Marcotte intends to gather up hand-made gifts at the SOWA Holiday Market, a collection of local vendors selling artisan goods held at the Benjamin Franklin Institute in mid-December.

“I’m attracted to the fact that I would be supporting local crafts people and buying unique gifts that are well made,” Marcotte said. “It feels more meaningful.”


Taryn Luna can be reached at taryn.luna@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @tarynluna.