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Early signs suggest booming sales online in the final week of the Christmas shopping season

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Early figures suggest the final week of the key Christmas shopping period has proved a busy one for the UK’s etailers. Multichannel retailers are still hard at work promoting their click and collect services, while online retailers are also showing off their evouchers for those who still have to buy before Christmas.

But there’s set to be barely a moment for traders to catch breath this weekend, since predictions show even Christmas Day will be a busy one for online retailers.

John Lewis, which has reported online sales up by as much as 42.2% over the course of this month, said it had seen a flurry of ecommerce activity before Wednesday’s cut-off point for Christmas deliveries. In the four days to the end of Wednesday December 21, sales across the department store’s channels rose by 20.7%. David Barford, director selling operations, said: “Trade this week has started strongly both in our ‘bricks’ and ‘clicks’ divisions.

“In-store sales have benefitted from the festive atmosphere created by partners, while online sales soared in the run up to the cut off deadline for delivery.”

Online and multichannel retailers are still promoting ways consumers can buy Christmas gifts online, even though final delivery dates have now passed. Among the UK’s most visited websites, and Next are both highlighting the chance to buy online vouchers for last minute gifts while Argos and John Lewis both remind visitors that they can still reserve online and collect in store until Christmas Eve.

But for those online retailers who do not have click and collect services, sale time has arrived. Gap is already running its post-Christmas sale, as is As the sale period swings into action, according to mobile payment specialist mBlox, citing research from Opinion Matters, one in 10 UK shoppers will be buying in the sales from their mobile phones. Michele Turner, chief marketing officer of mBlox said: “We’re seeing more consumers who want to combine High Street shopping with mobile online purchasing while they are on the go.”

John Lewis said today it is offering customers a new way to shop from its stores – even when they are closed over Christmas. It is putting up virtual window displays in seven of its stores, in Peter Jones, Oxford Street, Brent Cross, Milton Keynes, Reading, Liverpool and Edinburgh, where passing shoppers can scan barcodes using their iPhones in order to buy clearance products. Shoppers will be linked to the mobile website in order to buy, and goods purchased using the windows between Christmas Eve and December 27 will be delivered in-store on December 28 for collection. Alternatively customers can opt for a named day home delivery from December 29 onwards. The windows will be in place for the whole of the Clearance period which ends on Janaury 15.

Simon Russell, head of multichannel at John Lewis, said: “These innovative window displays offer our customers another way to shop at their convenience from Christmas Eve through to January 15 and this is particularly important on Boxing Day, when John Lewis shops are closed.”

Price has proved to be a key issue in this year’s seasonal shopping, according to retail analyst Verdict Research, which has run a five-wave survey on Christmas spending. It found that in the week from December 12 to 18, 64.8% of the 2,000 consumers its quizzed in its online survey cited this as a key issue when buying gifts. Choice was mentioned by 42.9%.

Verdict analyst Carly Syme said: “With squeezed disposable incomes, consumers want to ensure they are getting as much as they can for their money and with such a focus on price through big discounts and promotions offered by retailers, it is not surprising it has come out as the top factor.”

That could one reason for the expectation that virtual tills will be busy on Christmas Day. Etailers’ trade association the IMRG has already predicted that shoppers will spend £186m online on Christmas Day, and almost twice as much on the following day.

Now Halfords has released data showing that December 25 was its busiest day in 2011. Its analysis showed that customers began logging on as early as 6am and continued to buy through the morning, hitting an early peak at 12 noon, before lunch and the afternoon blockbuster film. From 4pm they were back online, buying fast until a lull at about 8pm, before peaking again between 9pm and 11pm. It says that more than three times as many products were sold on Christmas Day 2011 as on Boxing Day.

Halfords head of digital Jon Asbury said: “Online shopping is a very important and convenient part of our lives, and it’s not surprising to see that on Christmas Day, when the whole nation enjoys a day at home, people are using their leisure time to indulge in a little virtual shopping. We are expecting this year’s Christmas Day to be even busier than last year, as more customers search out online bargains.”

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