NEW YORK • Christmas shopping is increasingly an online affair. Shoppers in Britain were expected to break a new record for online sales on Christmas Day while in the United States, a drop in store traffic has been offset to a large extent by online sales.
Britain had "already witnessed record-breaking spending over the festive period," Mr Nick Jones, a spokesman for data firm Experian was quoted as saying by the BBC. "Rightly or wrongly, we've seen more people than ever spending a significant proportion of their Christmas Day shopping online," he added.
"Due to the rise in the use of personal connected devices, consumers can now shop for bargains on their mobile phone or tablet when they have a spare couple of minutes - even if that does mean sneaking away from the festivities and risking the wrath of family members," he added.
Online shoppers were expected to spend £728 million (S$1.5 billion) - up 11 per cent from last year - according to Experian and online retailers IMRG.
A survey for Barclaycard found that 32 per cent of those planning to shop on Christmas Day were motivated by the fear of missing out on the best bargains, 18 per cent expected to be bored and wanted something to do and 15 per cent expected to be disappointed with their presents and wanted to buy replacements. Some 15 per cent of those planning to shop during this time expected to do so on Christmas Day, the poll found.
In the US, households were expected to spend US$95.5 billion (S$134 billion) online during the holiday season, up 11 per cent over last year, Reuters, quoting Forrester, reported.
E-commerce accounts for 10 per cent of US retail spending annually, but 14 per cent of spending during November and December, the company said. The surge in online sales did not significantly disrupt services this year at delivery companies like United Parcel Service and FedEx, which put firm cut-off dates for gifts to ship in time for Christmas, Reuters said. Most retailers had little choice but to comply with the cut-off dates.
"We have stopped (free shipping) for orders that promised delivery by Christmas" because of UPS' cut-off date, said online clothing retailer Lulus' chief marketing officer Noelle Sadler.
The last Saturday before Christmas often sets the annual record for retail sales, vying with Thanksgiving weekend's Black Friday. In recent years, last-minute shopping has determined the success of the season, and a relatively weak final weekend bodes poorly for retailers.
This year Super Saturday weekend sales in stores and online rose 4 per cent to US$55 billion, after a 2.5 per cent gain last year, according to retail consultancy and private equity fund Customer Growth Partners. That puts overall store and online sales from the start of last month through Dec 22 on track to rise 3.1 per cent, below the 3.2 per cent pace the firm forecast and down from 4.1 per cent growth in the same period last year.
"Sales have been sluggish so far this year as most consumers are still buying close to need," said Mr Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners. "What's worse is the marked deceleration from a year ago," he said.