Study: U.K. online holiday shoppers to spend US$2.5B

Despite a downturn in the global economy and the uncertainties caused by the terrorist attacks in the U.S., online spending in the U.K. during the holiday season is expected to hit 1.75 billion pounds (US$2.51 billion) this year, according to a study released Friday by the nonprofit research group Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG).

"The main driving factors are U.K. consumer acceptance of online shopping, a heavy push of online shopping by traditional retailers with television commercials and the convenience factor," said IMRG Chief Executive James Roper.

The study, which was produced in conjunction with Forrester Research Inc., estimates that online shopping in the U.K. for the year will pull in 3.94 billion pounds, Roper said. In October, online retailing was worth almost 433 million pounds, up more than 145 percent on October 2000, IMRG said. That compares with a 0.1 percent decline in annual bricks and mortar retail revenue in October, Roper said.

The estimates for the holiday shopping season, comprising the months of November, December and January, are in line with a study released in October by researcher GartnerG2, a unit of Gartner Inc. forecasting worldwide online holiday spending of US$25.3 billion.

According to Roper, this is the first year that the U.K. has really embraced online shopping and indications that the U.K. will comprise 10 percent of the worldwide online holiday shopping revenue is a clear sign of how far the U.K. has come.

"Online shopping and consumer acceptance of it has come later here than in the U.S. and that has actually worked in our favor. Because of the dot-com crash, the main players on the market now are the traditional players like (department stores) John Lewis and Argos. They have put serious investment in place and learned a lot from the pain that came before them. Their sites are sophisticated and they promote online shopping as an accepted mainstream channel," Roper said.

Roper pointed to the current television commercials for online shopping by the Royal Mail featuring superstar shopper Elton John as evidence of the serious push U.K. retailers are putting into promoting their Web sites.

"You also can't underestimate the convenience factor of online shopping. More people are working and working longer hours in the U.K. than ever before, not only giving them online access, but after a long day at work, who really wants to go shopping?" Roper said.

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