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Boxing Day will see the biggest online spending of the year

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Boxing Day is set to be the biggest online sales day of the year, with takings set to reach £472.5m, according to forecasts out today.

The IMRG and Experian’s Hitwise service predict there will be 126m visits to retail sites on that day alone, as UK consumers spend a combined 17m hours shopping online. That’s 31% up on the same day in 2011, and 14m visits up from Cyber Monday.


Taken as a whole, says Hitwise, customers will have spent a total of 375m hours shopping online throughout the month. That adds up to 32m, or 9%, more hours than in December 2011.

“Christmas 2012 is on track to be another record-breaker for online retail, outstripping 2011 on all fronts,” commented James Murray, digital insight manager at Experian Marketing Services. “The current market trends suggest that in the UK, Wednesday 26th December will be the biggest day for online retail, with an estimated 126 million visits to online retail outlets and a massive 17 million hours spent online shopping on this day alone.

“This will be the peak of online shopping in the UK so marketers need to make sure their campaigns are in place to maximise traffic on Boxing Day as consumers make the most of early sales offers: it’s not too late to promote special offers through email and social media. Understanding what people are interested in, the best channels to engage customers through and when to reach them will be crucial to success this season.”

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are also expected to be big online spending days, with £225m and £307m spent on these days respectively. IMRG and Experian also predict that Christmas Eve will be a popular day for Click & Collect as shoppers pick up last-minute buys.

Andrew McClelland, managing director at IMRG, said: “The post-Christmas sales period actually starts on Christmas Eve online and, judging by these forecasts, it certainly finds a willing audience. Accessing retailer websites through always-on devices such as smartphones and tablets provides consumers with an easy way to check about returning a gift, or download digital content directly onto that device.

"Indeed, retailers have been telling us that tablet devices are among the biggest sellers this year. As consumers encounter a range of discounts and offers already available in the sales on these sites, it is not surprising that consumers will spend over £300 million even on Christmas Day itself this year; online, the Christmas shopping never really stops.”

Chris Webster, head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini, said: “Online tills will be ringing all the way from Christmas Eve to Boxing Day, including a massive £300 million spent on Christmas morning itself. Christmas Day will see a surge in online sales as new tablets and smartphones are put through their paces and vouchers are cashed in for virtual goods such as movies and music.

“Online discounts are not yet at last year’s levels as retailers play a waiting game. Instead we’re seeing discounts directed at individual customers. As a result many shoppers are learning the benefits of patience, waiting for the Christmas Eve sales before getting the party started early. The busiest day will again be Boxing Day with a 50 per cent rise in online traffic as deep discounting is used to clear out remaining stock.”

Research from trustmark scheme Trusted Shops suggests that some of this shopping will still be part of the Christmas present rush. Its survey of 2,000 UK consumers, carried out through One Poll, found that 42% of British shoppers planned to buy some of their Christmas presents after December 25 as they look to take advantage of the Boxing Day sales.

Some 60% also said they would spend the same amount over Christmas as they did last year. Jean-Marc Noël, chief executive and founder, Trusted Shops, said: “The availability of online shopping, combined with Boxing Day sales, have really changed shopping patterns for consumers around the Christmas holidays. Customers like to go with safe shops or ones they have been with before, but the focus of activity on Cyber Monday and the sales shows that shoppers also like bargains. The key to success in any period of high shopping activity is presenting a safe, secure proposition for customers.”

eBay , however, says Boxing Day will be the day people sell their unwanted Christmas gifts. It says more than 100,000 items were listed last Boxing Day, and it forecasts  £495 million will have been on presents that are unwanted, equivalent to £32.13 per person.

However, a study from Pricerunner.co.uk suggests that hopes of a bonanza Christmas sale period could be overegged. It says 47% are not planning to buy anything in the 2013 January sales. That’s because, the survey suggests, only 40% believe they will get a bargain.

Pricerunner says they could be right. Its study, carried out in association with the Centre for Economics Business Research (CEBR), found many of the best times to buy were outside the January sales period.

The average price of a mobile phone, for example, fell steadily throughout 2012, with prices dropping sharply before the launch of a new model. Before the launch of the Apple iPhone 5, average mobile phone prices fell by up to 7% to about £150, while tablet average prices fell by about 10% in the two months before the launch of the new iPad in March.

Oliver Hogan, CEBR head of microeconomics, added: “CEBR has been monitoring pricing data on PriceRunner.co.uk for some time. Our observations suggest that there has been increasing volatility in the price of individual products during their life-cycle, with no apparent change in their quality other than perhaps being overtaken by the latest model.”
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