Online sales defy economic slowdown

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Internet retail to hit £44.9bn by 2012, says Verdict Research.

New sales figures reveal that online retail spending in the UK rose 35 per cent in 2007 in spite of an impending economic downturn.

The UK e-Retail 2008 report from Verdict Research noted that UK surfers spent £14.7bn in 2007, representing a growth rate almost 10 times higher than the total UK retail market.

Verdict Research predicts that this level of growth will continue well into the future and could reach £44.9bn by 2012, representing 13.8 per cent of total online spending.

The research found that 'convenience' is the primary driver. "The internet is widely perceived as a cheaper and easier way of finding lower prices and bargains in most sectors," said Malcolm Pinkerton, senior retail analyst at Verdict Research.

"As the cost of broadband falls, consumers become more accustomed to internet shopping and retailers continue to enhance their online propositions.

"This channel will find itself extremely well placed to capitalise on falling consumer confidence and lower levels of disposable income currently [affecting] the retail market."

However, the high street is not about to become a desolate landscape. Verdict Research reckons that there is still a need for physical locations, but retailers need to develop strong links between in-store and online experiences.

"In many cases online and in-store sales channels will simply blur into one, " added Pinkerton.

"There is still a need for physical locations, but the number of stores required will vary according to sector. With the rise in music downloads, for example, there will not be such a need for music and video stores."

Electrical goods and groceries made up just under half of all online retail spending in 2007, with electricals topping the list at 25.1 per cent.

Despite an increase in female web shoppers, men continue to make more online purchases and spend more when doing so.

Men tend to buy items online which have a higher ticket price, pushing up their average spend.

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