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Online traders see post-Christmas boost

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Boxing Day was the busiest day of 2010 for online retailers, closely followed by December 27, according to early figures from analysts.

On Boxing Day, UK visits to online retail websites were 12% higher than the pre-Christmas peak in traffic, which came on December 5, and 26% higher than on Christmas Day, says Robin Goad, research director at Experian Hitwise.

That was followed by a 4.5% rise in traffic to online retailers on December 27, compared to the same day last year.

Goad believes higher levels of visits were prompted both by the early start of the January sales and by the imminent rise in VAT, due to go up from 17.5% to 20% on January 4.

In his blog, Goad also says that multichannel retailers saw higher levels of traffic than their pure play equivalents – with a 123% advantage on Boxing Day. Among them were M&S, John Lewis, Tesco Direct, River Island and New Look.

“This points not only to the strong sale brands of the big high street names such as Next and Debenhams but also to a lot of browse-before-you-buy behaviour,” said Goad. “The sales shopping experience is hard to replicate online and most bargain hunters would prefer to hit the high street to local mall on Boxing Day; what this data shows is that many of them carry out research online first.”

IMRG, the trade body for online retailers, had predicted shoppers would spend £153m on Christmas Day itself before going on to spend more than £300m on Boxing Day, December 26.

David Smith, managing director of IMRG, said: “Christmas Day has become a busy online shopping day in recent years, as people with an eye for value look to take advantage of the 24/7 nature of online retail. 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.” 

And, according to Experian Hitwise’s figures, UK Internet visits to retail websites increased by 32% between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, with eBay UK and Amazon UK seeing the biggest visitor numbers.

The first retailers to report sales figures for the period appear to bear out optimistic forecasts. John Lewis said it had seen a “stellar start” to its sales online, with visitor numbers on Christmas Day up by 25% and sales up by 45%. Its head of selling operations, Maggie Porteous, said: “We are thrilled to have seen such a positive start to our online clearance.”

Meanwhile Halfords said that Christmas Day was its busiest ever, with a 4% rise in orders compared to last year and an 11% increase in visitor numbers. It said that just over 10% of all visits came from a mobile device.

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