Snow has helped keep online sales high as the Christmas season moves towards December 6, expected by many in the industry to be the biggest cyber-selling day of the year.
Retailers are reporting high ecommerce sales as snowbound customers opt to order online instead. John Lewis said that sales at johnlewis.com were 62.2% up so far this week as "customers unable to travel opt to shop online". Hats, gloves and scarves have been selling at the rate of one every 20 seconds, with sales of children's outerwear up by 94% compared to the same week last year and by 25% compared to last week. Ugg boots were the start of the women's shoes category, with a pair selling every two minutes.
Meanwhile designer lingerie retailer Mio Destino reports its busiest day ever on December 1, with sales up by 120%. Marketing manager Susan Hopkins said: "Evidently people are stranded, working from home and perhaps have a little more time to do some Christmas shopping."
At the same time online retail body IMRG said sales were gathering momentum as Mega Monday, on December 6, approached. It said sales levels had been increasing steadily since November 28, with sales rising higher on Wednesday December 1 than on November 29, Cyber Monday in the US.
IMRG managing director David Smith said: “2010 looks set to be another bumper year for online, with sales for Super Sunday and Mega Monday estimated to reach over half a billion at the end of a week when the festive spend really kicked in.
"We estimate that £6.4bn will be spent in December alone, with total online sales for November and December set to reach £12.4bn. Consumers have looked to spread the costs of Christmas a bit more this year due to the economic climate, but December 6th is the day that our retailers expect sales activity to be at its highest.”
Robin Goad, research director at Hitwise UK, said: “Last weekend was certainly the busiest of the pre-Christmas season so far this year, but the clue that we are not quite there yet is the comparison between traffic levels on Sunday (November 28th) and Monday (November 29th).
"For most of the year, UK Internet visits to retailers peak on the Sunday and drop off on the Monday, and only on Mega Sunday/Monday do the traffic levels match. This didn’t happen this Sunday and Monday, implying that Mega Monday is still to come – most likely next Monday.”
Retailers concur. “We are expecting Monday 6th December to be the busiest day of 2010,” said Brian McBride, managing director of Amazon.co.uk, while Zak Edwards, managing director at Prezzybox, said: "The day will be hectic. People will realise that there is only 2 and a bit weeks to go to the big day and think ‘I’d better get shopping!’"
Research from YouGov and SoftwareLoad.co.uk, published today, showed that 47% of UK internet users expect to shop online this Christmas. Dirk Lebzien, head of Softwareload, said: "Consumers of all ages are becoming more comfortable with the concept of shopping online and it is becoming a real time and money saver for people at Christmas."
But at the same time, according to retail analysts at Verdict, consumers will be looking for bargains.
Meanwhile the early signs are that Manic Monday got the Christmas shopping season off to a good start.
In total, some £537m was expected to be spent online over the course of this Monday, hitting up to £24m spent each hour, according to predictions by shopping comparison site Kelkoo.
The final figures for the day are not yet in, but Venda, which processes more than one in 50 of all non-food UK ecommerce purchases and whose clients include Monsoon, Accessorize, De Beers and Republic, said the day had seen the highest level of ecommerce transactions in history.
Venda said that Sunday November 28 had already passed the highest number of transactions recorded on one day last year. And on Manic Monday, November 29, there was a further 21% increase in the number of completed internet sales.
The company’s group chief executive Eric Abensur said: “These figures indicate that online retailers are on for another bumper Christmas quarter as consumers choose to stay at home to do their Christmas shopping.”
Fashion search engine Shopstyle.co.uk reported a lunchtime spike in visits on Monday. The etailer, which allows shoppers to search styles on the sites of some 2,000 fashion brands and retailers, said traffic rose by 20% over lunchtime, compared to the same time last year. It also found evidence of longer lunches, with the peak continuing till past 3pm.
Director Shannon Edwards said: “It’s the perfect storm of online shopping. The UK public is now online shopping savvy. They want to save time as well as money as that’s why they’re using shopping sites like ours to do the hard work for them.
“Monday produced the largest numbers we have ever seen in Europe for ShopStyle.”