Christmas Day shoppers set to spend more than £150m online

MORE than £150 million is expected to be spent online on Christmas Day as UK retailers begin their sales early and shoppers look to beat the looming VAT increase.

Online retailers' association IMRG estimate that 4.8 million consumers will make internet purchases on Christmas Day.

On Boxing Day, the organisation estimates that spending will break through the 300m mark for the first time to add to the 153m it predicts for Saturday.

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The figure is backed up by analysis by payments company Visa Europe, which is estimating that 960,000 transactions worth 36m will be made on Visa cards alone on Christmas Day.

The fourth quarter of 2010 has seen impressive growth for online retailing so far, with an average year-on-year increase of 22.5 per cent recorded for October and November.

In spite of the impact of the recent bad weather on deliveries, IMRG predicts online will still perform strongly over the festive holiday. The looming VAT increase on 4 January is also expected to generate a surge of activity for big-ticket purchases.

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."

According to a separate survey, three in ten UK online shoppers plan to make purchases over Christmas and before 4 January to avoid the VAT increase.

During the Christmas period, consumers aged 18 to 35 planned to shop online the most.