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Weekend: No slump for web retailers

High streets suffer as Brits flock to online shops

Despite a downturn in the global economy and the uncertainties caused by the terrorist attacks in the US, online spending in the UK during the holiday season is expected to hit £1.75bn this year, according to a study released on Friday by the non-profit research group IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group).

"The main driving factors are UK 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, estimates that online shopping in the UK for the year will pull in £3.94bn, Roper said. In October, online retailing was worth almost £433m, 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, forecasting worldwide online holiday spending of $25.3bn.

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

"Online shopping and consumer acceptance of it has come later here than in the US, and that has actually worked in our favour. Because of the dotcom crash, the main players on the market now are traditional stores like 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 UK retailers are putting into promoting their websites.

"You also can't underestimate the convenience factor of online shopping. More people are working, and working longer hours in the UK 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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