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Retailers gear up for UK online retailing’s ‘busiest ever day’

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Online retailers are gearing up for what’s expected to be the biggest Monday of the shopping season. Cyber Monday will be Monday December 3, predicted by Experian Hitwise to be “the busiest day ever in online retail history.”

Experian forecasts that UK internet users will make 115m visits to retail sites, up 36% on last year on Monday. And IMRG and Capgemini have have also said that Monday December 3 will mark the beginning of a two-week online shopping spree in which UK customers will spend £4.6bn.

Visa Europe has also joined the predictions that Monday will be the busiest online shopping day in history, and it expects that £320m will be spent online on Visa cards alone.

Even before Cyber Monday, John Lewis has reported record-breaking online orders. Some £9m was taken on last Friday alone – or £105 every second. That helped to boost the department store retailer’s group-wide sales to £109.6m during the week to November 24, 11% up on the same week last year and 19.6% on the previous week.

John Lewis’ head of selling operations, Maggie Porteous, said: “We are extremely pleased to have achieved such a strong uplift in sales. There is no doubt that Christmas sales are really beginning to take off.”

A multichannel approach is counselled, with Deloitte suggesting that £3.5bn in Christmas sales will be made or influenced via smartphones. Consumers will use their devices to look up prices and shopping lists as well as finally making purchases.

Overall, says Deloitte, online sales will increase by 17% this Christmas, with total UK retail sales up by 1%.

“We remain cautious on the long-term outlook for UK retail,” said its UK head of retail Ian Geddes, “but there are more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic this Christmas. Consumer confidence has gradually improved over the course of the year and despite the recent increase in inflation, it is much lower than it was 12 months ago easing the pressure on households.

“Whilst it is not certain whether this will translate into higher spending, with consumers continuing to show a desire to save, we believe it will be enough to generate modest growth. However, whilst we forecast the value of retail sales to be in positive territory, once you account for inflation running at 2.5%, this equates to a fall in volume. Yet with retailers increasing their focus on stock control we would expect to see better use of strategic, targeted sale activity as opposed to the blanket application of discounts across stores seen in recent years.”

Chris Thomas, chief executive and founder of online footwear retailer, Cloggs also sees evidence of the need for a multichannel approach. He said: “Retailers looking to go from the red into the black have had to engage in multichannel retailing in order to attract more customers in the current economic climate.

“They are already being helped by the popularity of tablets and smartphones over the past year, which has not only given them more avenues through which to shop, it has also encouraged shoppers to share their latest purchases with friends and alert them to bargains.

“We have seen increasing interest from discount sites, with promo codes and mobile vouchers also being a major driving force for online retailers this year. People are very much in tune with stores offering discounts on products and as shopping becomes a much more social affair, mobile devices will be a key ally this Christmas.”

In the US, Cyber Monday is traditionally the Monday after Thanksgiving, and fell yesterday. Analysts from Comscore have said they expect the day to have been the US’s biggest ever online shopping day, up by 20% on the previous year, while IBM Benchmark put the rise still higher at nearly 27%.

But in the UK Cyber Monday is the first Monday of December, according to Experian analyst James Murray.

In coming weeks we’ll be covering the ups and downs of the Christmas 2012 shopping season in the run up to December 25 and beyond. Be part of the story by emailing chloe (@) with your updates on trading as well as news of any seasonal innovations that you’re running or you’ve seen this year.

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