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Don’t call them unwanted presents: they’re just ready to be ‘rehomed’

Pgiam | E+ | Getty Images

With Christmas only a week away, millions of shoppers are expected to hit the shops in a frenzy of panic-buying.

In the U.K., over 26 million people (about 55 percent of all shoppers) admit that they still have Christmas shopping left to do, according to research by Barclaycard's Freedom Rewards released on Monday.

Recognizing the tight schedule they now find themselves on, over 20 million of these late-shoppers expect to compromise on quality and/or buy an unsuitable gift this year. Which would explain why more than 8 million presents (about 17 percent of all presents) will be 're-gifted' this year.

(Read more: Looking like an iPad Christmas)

On top of re-gifting, a new trend has been steadily building: instead of returning the unwanted gifts to the shops, people are taking to the web – or as online auction site eBay calls it, "rehoming".

Listings website, Gumtree, estimated that across the U.K. in 2012 about £2.1 billion-worth ($3.4 billion) of unwanted gifts were exchanged , with the typical British adult receiving two unwanted presents worth £43.50 ($70.70) on average.

According to the eBay's research, more than 100,000 unwanted Christmas gifts ended up listed on the online marketplace following the 2011 holiday season. And in 2012, "unwanted Christmas presents" was the sixth highest search term on the site on Christmas day, as shoppers seek to either sell or buy a bargain.

(Read more: Forget the Christmas party, employees want cash instead)

So why do some shoppers run the risk of waiting until the very last minute to buy their gifts? Well, mostly for the Christmas spirit apparently.

About a quarter of shoppers polled by Barclaycard's Freedom Rewards research said their top reason for shopping late was because they love shopping "when the shops are filled with Christmas spirit."

Equally important in late-purchasers' minds is the opportunity to make the most of the pre-Christmas sales.

But everything is not all bad. For eBay, unwanted presents give brands a "huge opportunities" to target and "inspire 'guilt gifters'" logging on to buy presents they forgot or looking to make it up to disappointed family and friends.

(Read more: Black Friday shoppers beware—the 12 scams of Christmas)

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