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Online retailers boast strong Christmas sales figures as high street slumps

Amazon.com and John Lewis are among the companies posting record online sales

Online shopping reached a new high during the 2012 holiday season, with retailers both large and small reporting strong sales during the period.

Figures from global information services company Experian reveal that UK Internet users made 84 million visits to retail websites on Christmas Eve and 107 million visits on Christmas Day - up 86% and 71% respectively compared to the same days in December 2011.

However, Boxing Day set a new British record for online shopping with 113 million visits going to retail websites in a single day. Experian said that this can be attributed to consumers becoming savvier in their sales shopping strategies, using the Internet to research the best deals.

Amazon.com reported that third-party sellers worldwide on Amazon experienced record holiday growth, with sales in the US alone increasing more than 40 percent year-on-year. For the year, sellers on Amazon sold tens of billions of dollars worth of goods worldwide.

"I've been selling on the Amazon platform for about 12 years now, and this has been by far one of the best ever holiday seasons. My business experienced more than a 70 percent increase in orders placed over last year," said Eli Silver, president of electronics retailer Amazing Deals Online.

Amazon also announced last week that 2012 was its biggest holiday ever with over 26.5 million items ordered worldwide on its peak day.

Meanwhile, John Lewis reported that online sales for the five weeks to 29 December 2012 were 44.3 percent up on last year. Johnlewis.com now accounts for a quarter of the total John Lewis business.

"The success of our online operation and our pre-eminence as an omni-channel retailer cannot be underestimated," said Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis.

"Sales at johnlewis.com broke through the £800m milestone during December supported by an excellent performance from our Click and Collect facility which allows customers the flexibility to buy online and collect from John Lewis and Waitrose outlets."

Research by the Royal Mail released today revealed that just over half of SME online retailers in the UK saw an increase in sales in 2012, and two thirds are confident sales will increase this year. This is despite the fact that 70 percent believe competition is more intense than two years ago.

However, the boom in online sales was accompanied by a slump on the high street, with figures from retail research firm Springboard showing that December numbers until Christmas Eve were down 1.3 percent on last year.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is now asking MPs to put helping high streets high on their to-do lists. In particular, it is asking them to join calls for the government to freeze business rates, which are set to rise by 2.6 percent in 2013.

"Overall, Christmas hasn't been a boom time for UK retailers but it hasn't been complete doom and gloom either," sad BRC Director General Helen Dickinson.

"Online sales growth accelerated as we took advantage of the investment that many retailers have made in giving us the flexibility we now demand around delivery options like click-and-collect and security. We now feel much more comfortable about putting our credit card number into our mobile phone, but overall this channel represents just over 10 percent of total retail sales."

She added: "Sales were hard-fought and often driven by discounts so cutting into margins, though retailers worked hard to ensure they had the right products available, whether in store or online, and at the right prices."

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