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Last Updated: Friday, 20 January 2006, 10:02 GMT
Festive boom for online shopping
Person using a computer
More of us are choosing to buy over the internet
Internet shopping among UK consumers soared almost 50% in the 10 weeks before Christmas, a report has found.

Shoppers spent 4.98bn online during the period, compared with 3.3bn for the same time a year earlier, according to e-commerce trade body IMRG.

For 2005 as a whole, it calculated that spending over the internet in the UK totalled 19.2bn, 32% more than 2004.

Overall retail sales rose by 4% in December compared to the same month in 2004, official figures have shown.

The figure from the Office for National Statistics was in line with expectations.

IMRG managing director Jo Tucker said the 50% growth in online sales represented a "step change in retailing at Christmas".

Retail landscape

Some 24 million UK consumers shopped online in 2005, spending on average 816 each during the year, and 208 in the run-up to Christmas.

Pre-Christmas internet sales peaked in the week beginning 5 December, when 653m was spent online.

IMRG now forecasts that e-commerce will grow by 36% in 2006, with sales worth 26bn.

"There can no longer be any doubt that the internet is a major part of the retail landscape, and that it will dominate the retail agenda for the next several years," said Ms Tucker.

Mixed High Street

The boom in online shopping comes as the traditional High Street had a mixed experience over the Christmas period.

While many companies, such as Marks & Spencer and Tesco, enjoyed excellent sales, others such as Next, Body Shop and HMV had a tough time.

HMV and fellow music retailer MVC have also complained about the impact of online sales on their businesses.

IMRG chief executive James Roper said it was time for High Street retailers to make all their product ranges available online, and not just a limited number of items.

Of those retailers that have embraced the internet, Tesco said a record one million customers bought through its website in November and December, while department store John Lewis recorded online and catalogue sales of more than 100m in 2005.

"Over the last seven years attitudes towards online shopping have gone through a seismic shift," said Richard Lloyd-Owen, head of consumer business at accountants Deloitte.

"Once labelled as the best way to get good bargains and cheaper goods, shoppers now flock to the web for different reasons."

The winners and losers of the online sales boom

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