The 2006 holiday shopping period got off to a strong start over the weekend, according to several e-commerce operators.The Friday after Thanksgiving is typically seen as the start of the holiday sales season in the United States,\u00a0and retail outlets across the nation see some of the largest crowds of the year on that day. In recent years, online retailers also reported strong traffic on the day.While consumers may be opening their wallets to online retailers like never before, there\u2019s also evidence they are after bargains like never before. Two online price-comparison sites, which point consumers to the lowest prices for various items, reported surging traffic.Pricegrabber.com said it\u2019s seen a 45 percent increase year over year in referrals to merchants for November to date. In some categories, including toys, sporting goods and apparel, the amount of traffic sent to retailers by Pricegrabber has more than doubled, it said.Rival site Shopping.com reported a 40 percent jump in November-to-date referrals to online retailers and said hot categories include kids and family, home and garden, and clothing and accessories.Despite the strong traffic, Monday is likely to be busier, said Shopping.com. Last year, visitors to the site peaked between noon and 2 p.m. on Monday.Two of the season\u2019s hottest holiday gift items, the recently launched PlayStation 3 and Wii game consoles, have been selling fast on eBay. In the week\u00a0ending Nov. 24, 14,675 PlayStation 3 and 26,708 Wii consoles were sold through the site. The average price of the PS3 was US$1,186.39 while the Wii fetched an average $412.53, according to eBay Marketplace Research. Both prices are well above their suggested retail prices.Other hot electronics items include the Samsung Electronics BDP-1000 Blu-ray Disc player and Apple Computer\u2019s iPod nano and iPod Shuffle, the company said.-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)Related Link:\n\nReady for the Holiday Traffic?Check out our CIO News Alerts and Tech Informer pages for more updated news coverage.