Festive boost for online sales

12:20am Tuesday 8th January 2013

© Press Association 2014

More signs that shoppers are shunning the high street have emerged with figures showing an 18% jump in internet sales this Christmas.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said online sales grew at the fastest rate for a year in crucial December trading, as shoppers with smartphones and tablets benefited from more sophisticated websites and click and collect services.

Despite the cyber boost, it was still an "underwhelming" month for retailers, with overall like-for-like sales edging up just 0.3%, according to the closely watched survey from the BRC and KPMG.

Retail giants John Lewis, House of Fraser and Next - the first to provide Christmas trading updates - have all reported a surge in online sales.

Helen Dickinson, the new director general of the BRC, said the "stand-out" online performance came after slower momentum in the previous few months. She said: "Many valued the ease and convenience of shopping online during the Christmas period. The surging popularity of tablets and smartphones giving even better access is a major factor."

She also said shoppers felt much more comfortable putting their credit card details into their mobile phones.

A fashion for Lego building bricks failed to prevent traditional toy sales from continuing on a downward trend, as interest turned to tablet computers. Electrical retailers also benefited from the demise of rival Comet, which closed its final stores last month, and the popularity of earmuff headphones.

All-in-one-pyjamas, known as "onesies", which have been sported by celebrities including Rihanna and Robbie Williams, continued to boost clothing sales, with coats and jumpers also selling well in the colder December weather.

The BRC said while shoppers were cautious not to overspend on food, they tucked into canapes and festive cheeses, such as potted blue Stilton. Champagne and salmon sold well nearer to Christmas, but the best-sellers were festive puddings and desserts.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: "January will be a tough month for retailers as consumers face up to their credit card bills after Christmas, and it's likely 2013 will bring more of the same challenges." He added: "There will be no boom and it is likely more than a few will go bust."

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