ONLINE retailers are emerging as the big winners in the run up to Christmas with Amazon, eBay and Argos Mobile all seeing soaring sales traffic.
The first two weeks of December are a crucial time for the high street – but while online sales last Monday were the highest seen, footfall figures suggest people going to high street stores was down on last year.
Analysts predict an overall squeeze in household spending on Christmas – with evidence people are delaying making big purchases to see if shops are tempted to start discounting.
Figures from Experian show footfall at high street stores was down 2.2 per cent on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Monday was down 1.7 per cent, Tuesday 1.3 per cent and Wednesday down 3.4 per cent.
At the same time online shopping enjoyed its biggest day ever – with sales of £365 million on Mega Monday according to Visa – a total of 7 million transactions. There were 112 million visits to online shopping sites – an increase of 32 per cent,.
The value of online sales increased by 15.8 percent compared to the same day in 2011, but the average shopper spent slightly less compared to the same time last year.
A third of all visits to UK websites were made to Amazon, eBay and Argos – while six out of ten visits were to the top 100 sites – suggesting smaller, niche operations may be losing out.
Thursday was dubbed Boomerang Thursday – with predictions of a 15 per cent increase in the number of goods being returned as a result of hasty purchases made on Mega Monday.
Fiona Moriarty, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium said: “There is no doubt we are now entering the crucial period in the run up to Christmas. Retailers will be nervously watching their footfall.” She said the internet is changing shopping by making it easier to compare prices, particularly on mobile devices.
“People are shopping around much more before going onto the high street. We think the weekend before Christmas this year is going to be very, very busy. People are delaying their major shop.”
John Lewis reported online sales on Monday rose by 45 per cent compared with the same day last year. The store is ahead of the game when it comes to multi-channel shopping – combining online offering with physical stores via services such as Click and Collect.
Barry Blamire, managing director of John Lewis Edinburgh said: “Trade for John Lewis in Scotland has continued momentum this week with the cold snap helping to drive sales of clothing and outerwear.
“Customers are also starting to gear up for the festive season with party wear purchases very popular this week. When it comes to gifting, we’re continuing to see strong demand for tablets and eReaders and these are proving to be some the most sought-after gifts for this year.”
Dee Roch of multi-channel software company Eptica said: “A good Christmas can make the difference between survival or failure for hard-pressed retailers,
“Delivering a first-class customer experience is central to winning and retaining sales, but our research found that while some retailers are excelling at service, many seem to be unable to provide answers to even the most basic of questions.”