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The Christmas sales peak is predicted to come early this year as savvy shoppers migrate online to spread the cost of the festive season.

The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index has just revealed that British shoppers spent a total of £4.8 billion online during September (year-on-year growth of 24%), bucking the recent fall in sales on the high street. They also expect £6.4 billion to be spent online this Christmas – an increase of 16% from last year as shoppers hunt for bargains.

Most of the retail sectors represented on the Index have shown a year-on-year growth of at least 10%, with accessories up 28% from September 2009. This impressive growth is attributed to consumers looking to keep spending in check by shopping online for the best deals.

Chris Webster, head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini commented, “Purse strings are getting tighter as concerns about the Government’s austerity drive begin to have an impact on consumer spending confidence. The rise in online spending is at the expense of high street sales and we may even see an early peak with shoppers looking to spread the cost of Christmas over several pay cheques.”

The idea consumers are looking to spread the cost of Christmas is supported by the huge jump in gift sales during September, which saw a 32% year-on-year increase and an 8% rise from August.

Tina Spooner, Director of Information at IMRG, comments: “Despite a continuing decline in consumer confidence, the online retail market is growing ahead of our expectations, with a double-digit rise in yearly sales recorded in each quarter of 2010. Concerns over the Government spending cuts, VAT increase and job security, together with falling average households’ disposable income, are all contributing to driving this positive e-retail performance as consumers turn to online retailers to secure the best deals.
Alison Wade, Head of Marketing, Buyagift.com, comments: “In this difficult trading environment we are seeing people planning their Christmas shopping further in advance than previous years.
Paul Zimmerman, Managing Director, Firebox.com comments: “Sales at Firebox.com were up 35% year on year in September and our top ten best selling products (in terms of revenue) were the more fun, less expensive items with an average price of under £20.

IMRG (Interactive Media In Retail Group) is the industry body for global e-retail.

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