While offline retailers were left slashing prices to lure customers this holiday season, powerhouse portal Yahoo Inc. said Wednesday that it had an 86 per cent increase in online sales volume over last year, while Microsoft Corp.’s MSN network experienced a 106 per cent increase in sales.

In a sign that the convenience of online shopping is winning over consumers during the bustling holiday season, Yahoo reported sales of US$10.3 billion for the fourth-quarter of this year, far outpacing analysts’ original expectations of a 10 per cent growth rate over 2000. MSN, meanwhile, reported sales totalling $5.6 billion.

Yahoo said video game consoles, such as Xbox, PlayStation 2 and GameCube, followed by digital cameras, laptop computers, toys and apparel, led its sales. MSN also reported strong sales of digital cameras, as well as MP3 players, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and wireless products.

Just in case holiday revelers didn’t care for all the presents they received this season, both Yahoo Shopping and MSN are touting post-holiday, online sales “centers” where users can unload some of their unwanted gifts, and where bargain hunters can scoop up presents their relatives forgot to get them.

Brisk online sales were also reflected in the companies’ stock prices Wednesday afternoon as shares of Yahoo (YHOO) surged 8.4 per cent to $18.07 while Microsoft stock (MSFT) notched up 2.45 per cent to $68.92 a share.

Yahoo, in Santa Clara, Calif., can be reached at http://www.yahoo.com/. Microsoft, based in Redmond, Wash., can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/.