Why go to shop, if you have Internet?

More Britons logging in to do their shopping led to a 28.9 percent increase in Internet spending in 2005 as online sales neared the totals for department stores, a retail analyst group said Monday. Consumers bought 8.2 billion pounds (US$14.31 billion; Ђ 12.02 billion) worth of goods online, nearing the 9.4 billion pounds (US$16.40 billion; Ђ 13.78 billion) spent in department stores, Verdict Research said. Overall retail spending grew by just 1.5 percent.

Online shopping accounted for half the growth in retail sales this past year. Shoppers spent 3.9 billion pounds (US$6.81 billion; Ђ 5.72 billion) more in 2005 than the previous year, and 1.8 billion pounds (US$3.14 billion; Ђ 2.64 billion) of that was spent on the Internet.

The advantages to online retailing may be the reason traditional stores are not faring as well, the group said. "E-retail is redefining how people select retailers, enabling them to choose products that precisely meet their requirements," said Nick Gladding, senior retail analyst for Verdict, part of the Datamonitor Group. "This makes online retailers far more formidable competitors to high street retailers than their current sales figures suggest."

One in four U.K. consumers now purchases items online each year, Verdict said. In 2005, 14.6 million people shopped on the Internet, a 25.5 percent increase on the previous year.

The fastest growing age group of Internet shoppers was those 55 and over, nearly doubling to 2.7 million people this past year. Verdict reported the highest-spending age group as 35- to 44-year-olds, responsible for about three of every 10 pounds spent online, totaling 2.3 billion pounds (US$4.01 billion; Ђ 3.37 billion) in 2005.

Internet shopping is also more popular among women, with the average female spending 579 pounds (US$1,010; Ђ 849) in the year, though men were not far behind with an average of 543 pounds (US$947; Ђ 796), reports the AP.


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