January 30, 2006, 12:00 AM

U.K. online holiday shopping grew 50% in 2005, trade group reports

Internet shoppers spent £4.98 billion online in the 10 weeks before Christmas, compared with £3.33 billion during the same period in 2004, U.K. trade group Interactive Media in Retail reports.

In the 10 weeks before Christmas, online shopping in the U.K. grew 50% over the same period a year earlier, U.K. trade group Interactive Media in Retail reports. Internet shoppers spent £4.98 billion online during the period, compared with £3.33 billion during the same period in 2004, IMRG reported.

Online spending in November reached £2.253 billion, and in December, £2.264 billion.

Peak week was the week ending Dec.. 11 when sales reached £653 million. The weeks before and after that week each recorded £584 million in sales.

In 2005, UK consumers spent £19.2 billion on goods and services online, up 32% from 2004. 24 million British consumers shopped online in 2005, spending on average £816.

The trade group predicts that UK e-retail will grow 36% in 2006 to £26 billion.

"A surprising number of goods are still either hard to find or unavailable online. Large gaps exist in the supply market, such as high-end fashion and real estate,” said CEO James Roper. “Even leading retailers often only make a small proportion of their total inventory available online, and many don`t bother with spares at all. So huge growth potential remains for the merchants who plug these holes."

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