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Christmas shopping season building well, with early predictions that December 17 will be the busiest day of the year

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The official UK Christmas online shopping season is off to a good start, following what early reports suggest was a busy Cyber Monday.

Retailers and delivery specialists have been reporting rising sales over the last week, and early anecdotal evidence suggests that Cyber Monday itself did not disappoint. But looking ahead, some are now suggesting that December 17 will be the busiest pre-Christmas shopping day.

Wider forecasts have been for two busy weeks starting yesterday. The IMRG expects £4.6bn to be spent online in the coming fortnight.

John Lewis said it enjoyed its third-best week in its history last week, with total sales up by 9.3% – or £124.2m – in the week to December 1 on the same week last year. Online sales put in an all-time best to hit £37.9m. “Momentum is building as we enter December,” said head of selling operations Maggie Porteous. “All areas from toys, to bedding and ready-made curtains, to tablets are performing very well. As well as buying gifts and getting their homes ready for the festive period, customers are also ensuring they keep warm with cold-weather clothing and heating selling fast.” The retailer was expecting not only a good online Cyber Monday but a good multichannel one, with “unprecedented volumes of customers” expected to use its Click and Collect service yesterday.

Sexual wellbeing specialist Lovehoney reported yesterday, Cyber Monday, the best-ever day in its history – and says it expects even better sales in coming weeks as people make last-minute purchases, peaking on December 17. “Yesterday’s sales were the culmination of a year of sex,” said Matt Curry, ecommerce manager at Lovehoney. “Fifty Shades of Grey has completely changed the retail landscape for the sales of pleasure products. They have well and truly entered in the mainstream and are on more and more people’s lists as ideal presents.”

Rakesh Aggarwal, chief executive of online beauty retailer, said: “We have seen a 20% increase so far on last year’s sales and expect this to peak on Monday December 10.

“Mondays remain the busiest online shopping day in the run up to Christmas, but every day of that week will see high sales as more and more people have immediate access to shop online via home broadband and, increasingly, mobile devices,”

He added: “This year we have seen a 21% increase in sales already and it has been continuous and steadily growing throughout November. The health and beauty sector has seen a particularly high growth in online sales.

“We are expecting most shoppers to get their orders done in the next two weeks because many remember the effect that adverse weather conditions had on online deliveries a couple of years ago. But we still get many last-minute purchases as well and as long as there isn’t bad weather we are able to confirm delivery on purchases made up to December 21.”

Aggarwal predicts that spending next Monday will peak at 1pm as people log on in during their lunch break, and again at 7pm as they get home and go online.

Melissa Hill of independent online hair accessories pureplay Stone Bridge said turnover yesterday was up by 135% and transactions up by 86% on the equivalent day last year. “Funnily enough,” she said, “we had a huge number of transactions come in right after midnight (so early this morning), with these visitors having begun their shopping late Monday night. If we included these folks, our numbers would be even higher than last week’s.”

Meanwhile the first BRC/Metapack Retail Deliveries Measure, which reports on actual deliveries by UK retailers, showed 2m retail parcels were delivered last week, 11% up on the same week last year. International retail deliveries were up by 80%, with those bound for the US up threefold on last year.

“Interestingly, ‘Cyber Monday’ was coined at a time when few consumers had the luxury of broadband in their homes and a 28-day promise was most consumers’ idea of a good delivery experience,” said Shiran Liyanage, head of marketing UK at MetaPack. “Today, consumers can shop from anywhere using any device at any time and next-day delivery is fast becoming almost the norm. Indeed, consumer confidence in delivery is so strong that, each year, the peak shopping day becomes later and later, culminating in the largest number of orders being processed last year at an almost ‘irresponsible’ five days before Christmas.

“On that basis, the largest shopping day should be December 17, although this also varies on two factors: type of product (the emotional attachment invested in children’s gifts means orders are made early) and area (those who live in regions prone to bad weather also manage their expectations).”

We’re going to carry on reporting on Christmas trade in the run up to the big day, and beyond. Email chloe (@) to let us know how your retail business is faring and be included in this regular feature.

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