December 4, 2009, 12:00 AM

U.K. web sales will grow 14% in December, trade group predicts

With a peak online shopping day expected on Monday, Dec. 7, a study commissioned by London-based Interactive Media in Retail Group is projecting that most U.K. shoppers will do more than half of their holiday shopping online this year.

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

 

With a peak online shopping day expected on Monday, Dec. 7, a study commissioned by London-based Interactive Media in Retail Group is projecting that most U.K. shoppers will do more than half of their holiday shopping online this year, driving up December online sales in the U.K. by 14% year over year to £5 billion (US$8.33 billion).

The Interactive Media in Retail Group study, which was conducted by London-based e-Digital Research, projects that consumers will spend £350 million (US$580 million) on Monday. The study also found that 93% of shoppers plan to shop online for gifts this holiday season, with nearly three-quarters of them conducting at least half of their total shopping online.

“In 2009, more people than ever will be ordering Christmas presents via the Internet,” says Brian McBride, managing director of Amazon.co.uk, the U.K. site of Amazon.com Inc. and a member of the Interactive Media in Retail Group, or IMRG.

Although McBride didn’t note his web site’s sales growth so far this holiday season, he indicated that this year’s totals will outperform last year’s, when Amazon.co.uk hit a record 1.4 million items ordered on the Dec.1, 2008. “We expect this to be our biggest Christmas to date,” he says.

Stuart Rowe, chief operating officer of IMRG member Play.com, a U.K.-based mass merchant whose products range from toys and consumer electronics to concert tickets and men’s and women’s apparel, says holiday shoppers have gotten off to an early start with purchases of toys, clothing and other items.

Many holiday shoppers started searching the Internet earlier this year for gifts, says Peter Fitzgerald, industry leader, retail, for Google Inc.’s Google UK, also a member of IMRG. “Online Christmas shopping started much earlier this year with consumers more focused than ever in researching and finding inspiration for their Christmas purchases,” he says. “Christmas gift and related shopping terms like ‘Christmas gift ideas’ were up 26% year on year in November.”

The IMRG is comprised of hundreds of member companies, including many major retailers that serve the U.K., as well as international markets. It also works with research and consulting firm Capgemini to track e-commerce sales in the U.K. through the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, which includes data from more than 100 online retailers.

Royal Mail, the U.K. postal system, has prepared for its largest ever online Christmas delivery season with special services including Sunday and evening deliveries, and is expecting to ship 155 million items, says Royal Mail managing director Mark Higson.

However, not all holiday shopping has amounted to a positive experience. The Police Central e-Crime Unit of the London-based Metropolitan Police Service recently identified 1,219 fraudulent web sites that it says were duping shoppers into placing orders for what shoppers apparently thought were designer products including Ugg Australia Boots and jewelry from Tiffany & Co. But after placing such orders, shoppers received either counterfeit goods or nothing at all, while their payments went to support illicit activities of organized criminal gangs, the Metropolitan Police Service reported.

"Fraudsters target the victim`s desire to buy designer goods at reduced prices, particularly at this time of year,” says Detective Superintendent Charlie McMurdie, head of the PCeU. “The risk begins when your desire to purchase blinds your judgment or leads you to illegal web sites. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is."

The police, as part of what it called Operation Papworth, has collaborated with Nominet, the U.K. organization responsible for registering Internet domain names, to de-register and take down the 1,219 fraudulent web sites.

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