April 11, 2011, 2:55 PM

British retailers expect more strong web sales

But survey respondents worry about the negative impact of proposed EU consumer rules.

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Most United Kingdom retailers and e-commerce vendors such as payment providers and web designers are confident that the strong web sales of the first quarter of 2011 will continue or improve, according to a new study from Interactive Media in Retail Group, or IMRG. Last month, the research firm said that online shoppers in the United Kingdom spent 4.9 billion British pounds ($7.9 billion) in February, a 20% increase over the same month in 2010.

In its first Online Confidence Survey, the research firm surveyed 332 online retailers and vendors in the United Kingdom and found that 71% of respondents expected healthy sales to continue throughout the year, and a further 51% expected to post record sales growth in 2011. 

However, proposed changes to the EU’s Consumer Rights Directive are a major concern, as 69% of respondents said the proposals would hurt e-retailers.  The new laws would give consumers more time to change their minds about purchases and allow merchants less time to make refunds.

“It is perhaps not surprising to see that online confidence is riding high following the first quarter of 2011, with the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index recording strong growth of over 20% for both January and February,” says Andrew McClelland, director of operations and regulatory affairs at IMRG. “Although this would seem to contradict the fears that the consumer rights amendments will have a negative impact on e-retail, this could be because any changes will most likely not come into force until 2012.”

The survey found 48% of e-retailers confident that they can boost sales through mobile commerce, although 51% say retailer still don’t have a deep understanding of the mobile channel. Additionally, about 50% of respondents said that they were confident using social media, while 5% said they were not at all confident.

A detailed look at the leading online retailers in the U.K. and other European countries is available in the recently published Top 300 Europe.

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