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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 15:21 GMT
Digital goods are the festive best-sellers
By Will Smale
BBC News Online business reporter

The stylish iPod is this year's must have music gadget

From the latest digital devices to chocolate fondue sets, this year's Christmas present best-sellers suggest the average Briton is a gadget-obsessed, sweet-toothed eccentric.

And British shoppers seem to be people who cannot resist a bargain, are a bit pedantic about punctuation, and have jumped on England's post-Rugby World Cup triumph bandwagon.

The jury may still be out on whether this year's festive season will be better for the high street than last year's credit card and overdraft-fuelled frenzy, but retailers are agreed on one thing - they can't sell the latest digital goods fast enough.

From plasma and LED televisions, to mobile phones with integrated cameras, DVD-players, and especially the undeniably stylish Apple iPod personal music player, the British love-affair with all the latest gadgets shows no sign of abating - helped by the fact prices for many products are now much lower than last year.

This is especially true for DVD-players, which now can be purchased for less than 40 everywhere from your established hi-fi store to your local supermarket alongside the fruit and veg.

Newer technologies

Playstation 2
Sony's Playstation 2 remains the UK's best selling games console

Last year a similar player would set you back more than 100.

Sony's popular games console, the Playstation 2, is also a best-seller for the second year running, after a substantial reduction in its price over the past 12 months.

A spokesman for Dixons said: "A great deal of the newer technologies have now reached the mass market, with prices much lower than last year.

"DVD players especially, but also some of the higher end equipment, such as LCD or plasma TVs are selling particularly well," he said.

One digital product that has not reduced in price, and could in fact have probably named any price, is this year's definite must-have, best-selling single item - the Apple iPod.

Now in its second generation and smaller and more stylish than ever, the hard drive of this personal music player can hold up to 10,000 songs, downloaded from your home computer.


Pirates of the Caribbean is the most popular movie on DVD

It may retail for up to 400, but many retailers, including Amazon.co.uk, have sold out of certain models, after fashionable young people about town decided they were not prepared to be seen without one dangling from their ears.

Robin Terrell, managing director of Amazon.co.uk, said: "It is a very cool, very stylish product.

"Frankly none of us retailers, or Apple for that matter, expected it to prove so popular, and we have all been caught out a bit.

"Certain versions will be difficult to find this Christmas, as they cannot make them fast enough."

Department store group John Lewis has also confirmed a run on the iPod, in addition to seemingly everything else that is digital.

A spokeswoman for the store said: "It's going to be a digital Christmas for many, with radios, iPods and plasma TVs all exceptionally busy."


Bad punctuation
A book about bad punctuation is a bizarre best-seller

And if you have a shiny new telly, you are going to need to build up a collection of DVD video discs.

Sales are up again across all retailers, thanks no doubt to the ever-growing number of homes with DVD players.

The best selling films on DVD this festive season are Pirates of the Caribbean, and the second Lord of the Rings films.

In the comedy section, The Office Series 2, and Peter Kay Live At The Bolton Albert Halls are the most popular.

And for compact discs, Dido's second album Life for Rent is proving invincible.

Yet while the London singer is undeniably middle of the road, the British trait of eccentricity is alive and well in our choice of books and bizarre cooking products.

Zero tolerance

Chocolate fondue is very trendy

At Amazon.co.uk, the best selling book across all genres, is currently one about... punctuation!

Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss is the surprise sensation this Christmas.

Perhaps only in Britain would a book which promises a light-hearted, amusing look at bad punctuation do so well; but as one reviewer pointed out, it perhaps should have been titled Zero-Tolerance, because it is an adjective.

Mr Terrell from Amazon.co.uk said: "I honestly don't know why the book has proven so popular, it just came from nowhere to top our best-sellers list."

Even more worrying for those of a sensible disposition is the run Amazon has had on chocolate fondue sets.

Mr Terrell: "Again I have absolutely no idea. It is very bizarre indeed, but we have not one but three chocolate fondue sets in our Kitchen and Home best sellers list."


Less surprising has been the upsurge in interest in all things associated with England's Rugby World Cup triumph (but not of course in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland).

From the skin-tight Nike replica shirts to videos, DVDs, and Martin Johnson's fantastically well-timed autobiography, they are all selling as fast as they can be made.

But if you are planning to sit down on Christmas Day to watch a re-run of the rugby final on your new LED telly, while eating chocolate fondue and correcting your relatives on their bad punctuation, the spokesman for Dixons has some good advice: "When you buy your new TV or digital equipment, make sure you have bought all the additional wires or connectors you may need."

Shoppers 'to lift festive spend'
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25 Sep 03  |  Business

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