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Christmas Shopping Online or Instore?It seems that as the UK’s clocks go back, winter time starts and Christmas is just 54 or so shopping days away, two surveys reveal a great deal about the internet and British shopping habits.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has announced that now £1 in every £10 spent, is spent online. It says this 9.6% share of national spend is a record, three times bigger than 2007, and 30% up on a year ago. It makes web shopping now a mainstream activity.

A second survey (by HSBC) has found that more than 1-in-10 British shoppers will only use the internet for their whole Christmas shopping this year.  This is reported by Chloe Rigby on Internet Retailing.

13% of shoppers will shop only online; the same amount only offline. That leaves a staggering 74% now happily doing some of each. Electronic and real footfall. Most people like the choice to mix shopping styles for their big day.

By age group, more under 55s will shop exclusively online; most 65 and above only in person. But the really revealing figures are that all shoppers intend to spend an average £378 on gifts for family and £183 for food, drink and entertainment. 35-44s are the biggest spending age group, planning to part with over £600 apiece.

Women Shoppers

More women than men intend to buy on the High Street; only 6% have already done all their seasonal purchasing; 30% will buy in December’s first week and only 3% will leave it till the last few days. Those figures will surprise nobody.

The statistics that will shock are that almost half of those questioned do not aim to cut back on spending this year. And this in the face of doom and gloom about prospects for the economy over the next two years, at an all time darkness.

Two thirds of Christmas shoppers will buy from salary, 37% will use savings and 21% will borrow to buy presents to give away. 13% of 18-24 year olds will ‘dip into overdrafts’. To counteract that a little, 10% will give homemade gifts and 8% will recycle previous gifts.

Discount schemes, money back websites, retailer reward schemes continue to attract popularity, because as HSBC acknowledge, people are still looking to extract the maximum value even when spending more. As many as 4% are not expected to buy anything for Christmas, for religious, economic or personal reasons.

Internet Undercuts High Street

Two years ago, for Christmas 2009, Which? magazine did a survey comparing high street and web prices. It found of 28 of the most popular items every one (except a Blu-ray DVD player from an independent high street retailer) was cheaper on the internet and that included delivery charges.

As the market has got more competitive, money tighter, that is unlikely to change anytime soon. The internet giants will continue to dominate the market. Need a quick present? People will Google it and end up on Amazon more often than not.


  • as tax changes affect the big boys
  • as people continue to exploit the potential of smartphone opportunities to compare prices and locate supplies as they move about the high streets
  • as advertising and personal shopping progress

it could just give the real shops an advantage over the virtual ones.

But not this coming Christmas, probably.

Internet Retailing, Chloe Rigby, 21 October.

Photo: Enoch Lau