UK shoppers spent £5.46 billion online in December – the equivalent of £88.93 for every person in the UK – up 17 per cent on December 2008, according to IMRG Capgemini’s e-Retail Sales Index.
Sales rose by 3.8 per cent compared to November 2009. The research also showed that the peak week for online Christmas shopping was the second week in December – one week later than in 2008 – the delay attributed to a combination of the November postal strikes; shoppers holding out for bargains; increased confidence in delivery services; and Christmas falling on a Friday.
Year-on-year growth in the Index in 2009 was at an average of 14 per cent. In September of 2009, the growth rate of 7.6 per cent was the lowest year-on-year growth rate in the history of the Index.
Clothing was the main sector to drive the boom. Accessories, gifts, health and electricals performed less well throughout the year but peaked in November and December 2009.
The research revealed a 25 per cent rise in online alcohol sales during December, on November. Although clothing saw low growth compared to November, shoppers spent 18 per cent more compared to December 2008.
Jon Parry, principal retail consultant at Capgemini, said: “Once again, consumers have turned to the internet to do their Christmas shopping, with 17 per cent growth year-on-year this December.
“An interesting shift during this festive period is the strength of the month-on-month performance for multi-channel retailers (up 13 per cent) versus their pure-play competitors (down eight per cent).
“This shows both the high value consumers place on a multi-channel proposition, particularly when it comes to gift returns, and the trust advantage our high street brands have if they can get their online proposition right.
“A key trend highlighted by our index analysis is the 25 per cent drop in conversion rates from 2008 to 2009. This is a clear reflection of the increased traffic using the internet as a source of product information and recreation, accelerated by the increase in retail content on social network sites such as facebook.
“This highlights the significant opportunity on the table for retailers to enhance their online customer experience.”
James Roper, chief executive of IMRG added: “The latest Index figures prove yet again that online shopping thrives on adversity. The sector managed to deliver strong double-digit growth in 2009 despite the economy being in recession, aggressive high street competition, extreme weather and even postal strikes in the run-up to Christmas.
“2010 looks set to produce another year of strong results for e-retail, with demand expected to remain high as consumers habitually look online for best buys, and a pipeline of significant improvements emerge, including wider product range availability, even better websites and a greater choice of convenient and more reliable delivery options.”
The report also showed that the growth levels for multi-channel retailers and online-only retailers diverged in December for the first time last year. The Index for online-only retailers fell by 7.6 per cent, whereas the Index for multi-channel retailers rose by 13 per cent month on month. This can be attributed to multi-channel retailers (such as large department stores) offering guaranteed delivery for Christmas later in the month.