For First Time, Brits Will Do Most Holiday Spending Online

Only 40% of Shopping Will Be In Stores, Survey Says

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British consumers will do the bulk of their holiday shopping online for the first time this year, according to a report from SDL Campaign Management & Analytics.

Only 40% of seasonal budgets will be spent in-store this year, while 54.2% will be spent online. The rest will go through mail-order catalogues and TV shopping channels.

Nearly 10% of online holiday shopping will happen on a smartphone or tablet, with 25-to-34 year-olds most likely to buy gifts through a mobile device (15%). The over-55s are, not surprisingly, slightly less wedded to digital shopping, but even so, only 54.8% prefer to do their spending in-store.

Younger (25-to-34) shoppers are also more likely to use working hours to complete the majority of their online festive tasks, with 11.6% admitting this was the case. Overall, however, a respectable 93.2% of shoppers said they limit online shopping to their own time.

Convenience and price are driving shoppers online, as the proliferation of e-mail marketing and digital discounts attract more and more consumers. Online discounts are the most important motivation for 36 .8% of online shoppers surveyed, while getting the best deal is the priority for 31.9%. For 30.9%, it is the convenience of shopping from home that wins out over trips to stores or malls.

There are still plenty of reasons to visit stores, however, with 39.2% of respondents saying that they chose bricks-and-mortar shopping in order to avoid internet shipping costs, and 39% saying they were driven to shops by in-store discounts. More than half (54.4%) of all the 2,000 adults surveyed said that in-store assistance and customer service are factors that could drive them to shop in person rather than online.

Bob Hale, CEO of SDL, said in a statement, "Understanding and engaging customers based on their preferred use of each channel creates a customer experience consumers will value. While the data shows that more money will be spent online, the physical store is still very important and we believe the shopping season will be made up of customers experiencing brands through multiple channels."

Indeed, London retailers reported a big surge in spending by shoppers last weekend, with traditional department store Fortnum & Mason reporting its highest ever Saturday takings in more than 300 years of trading. According to the New West End Company, which promotes shopping in London's West End, shopper numbers were up 16.5% on the same weekend last year.

But it seems the Brits are fast becoming a nation of internet shopaholics all year round, with an average spend of $1,747 per head in 2011, up 14% from $1,532 in 2010. The U.K. is significantly ahead of all the 17 nations surveyed in Ofcom's 2012 International Communications Market report. Australia and Sweden were the biggest internet shoppers after the U.K., with Australians spending $1,358 each (up 26%) and Swedes spending $1,205 each (up 12%). In the U.S., the value per head was $1,000 in 2011, up 9% from 2010.

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