Online sales ‘to hit £5 billion’ this Christmas

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Online shopping is set to rocket this Christmas, according to research by Deloitte published Monday, which stressed that flexible delivery was crucial for retailers looking to cash in on the trend.

The business advisory firm forecast a 19 percent year-on-year rise in online sales in the U.K. for December 2013, to hit a total of £5 billion ($8.1 billion).

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Meanwhile, total Christmas retail sales in the U.K. – both on- and off-line – are expected to increase by 3.5 percent to a total of £40.3 billion during the period.

Deloitte said that clothing stores would receive a boost if the recent cold weather continued and that tablets and games consoles could lift sales at electrical retailers. Homeware and department stores are also expected to do well.

But Deloitte warned that when it comes to online shopping, flexible delivery would be "this year's battlefield" for retailers, with consumer expectations higher than ever.

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"Store collection is now seen as a basic offering and those retailers without this capability will struggle to convert online sales, and lose resulting footfall in-store," Ian Geddes, U.K. head of retail at Deloitte, warned.

Black Friday shopping tips
Black Friday shopping tips

He said consumers now expected delivery options to include specified time-slots, same-day collection from local stores and the ability to pick up smaller items from conveniently located lockers.

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Ben Perkins, head of consumer business research at the firm, added that some "innovators" in the market were raising the bar – but should still be cautious.

"Some retailers are able to deliver within 90 minutes, whilst others are offering Sunday deliveries, drive-through pick-up points and even collection from your tube station within four hours of ordering," he said. "However they must balance this against the cost of delivery, and recognise the infrastructure and systems that need to be in place to ensure a reliable and efficient service."

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