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Half of general merchandise sales to stem from online this Christmas

Shoppers will spend £9bn on general merchandise retail sales either bought directly online this Christmas or through multichannel, according to a report from Deloitte.

The business advisory firm said that 24% of all clothing sales are expected to be “digitally influenced” – products bought online or when consumers have used online as part of their shopping journey – this Christmas through the likes of price comparison sites, online reviews and social media. It predicted that 50% of all general merchandise sales will be influenced by online.

The research found that nearly three-quarters of multichannel consumers use price comparison websites as part of their research before purchasing a product, while 31% use vouchercode sites.

Colin Jeffrey, head of multichannel retail at Deloitte, said that consumers have embraced digital media and are increasingly confident about interacting and transacting online. 

“With trust in traditional sources of influence decreasing, they are turning to their peers or communities online for advice and to share information and opinions,” he said. The tough economic climate is also increasingly prompting consumers to adopt digital means that can help them find savings, he said.

Jeffrey said that sales of clothing are often driven by impulsive behaviour. “Still, online clothing sales have the potential to grow because of the combined online presence of mail order players (having successfully crossed into multichannel retail) and niche pure online players, offering flexible, intelligent shopping and service delivery,” he added.

Consumers are expected to rush online to carry out their Christmas shopping today - “Cyber Monday”. The Guardian reports that Amazon has predicted spending will hit peak volumes at 9pm while the number of online visitors is expected to be up 19% compared with last Monday, according to price comparison site MoneySupermarket. It said the average shopper is expected to make 41% of their purchases online this year.

The expected flurry of online sales contrasts with sales at clothing and footwear retailers, which continued to suffer last week as overall sales dropped 5.7%. According to the BDO High Street Sales Tracker sales at clothing stores dropped by 5.5% for the week ending November 27, with footwear sales falling by 8.3%.

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