December 23, 2010, 11:01 AM

U.K. shoppers are expected to break holiday online sales records

Industry group projects 4.8 million bargain-hunting Brits will shop online Christmas Day.

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Nearly five million shoppers in the United Kingdom are expected to spend about 153 million pounds ($236.2 million) online on Christmas Day, according to the Interactive Media in Retail Group, an e-retail industry group. U.K. shoppers are then expected for the first time to spend more than 300 million pounds ($463.2 million), online on Dec. 26, which is Boxing Day, a public holiday in the U.K.

Industry leaders in part attribute the large number of Christmas Day and Boxing Day sales to an increase in value-added sales tax set to effect on Jan. 4. VAT taxes will go from 17.5% to 20.0%.

“Boxing Day online sales will get an additional boost because of the upcoming VAT increase. Three in 10 U.K. online adults plan to make online purchases over the Christmas period and up to Jan. 4 to avoid the VAT increase,” says Matthew Cheng, managing director of, a discount directory site.

Weather may also play a role. Snow socked the U.K. this week, crippling airports and railways and prompting shoppers to stay at home. Cold but clearer skies are expected for the holiday weekend, but the snow effect may linger, the group says. “With many people not being able to get out to the high street sales due to the wide-ranging impact of the snow, online could see a real boost over the next few weeks,” says David Smith, managing director of the Interactive Media in Retail Group.


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