Britons don’t like to go to shop for Christmas presents

More consumers in Britain logged on to do their holiday shopping this year, with Internet buying rising 50 percent from a year ago, a retail group said Friday. In the ten weeks prior to Christmas, online spending totaled 5 billion pounds (Ђ7.28 billion; US$8.8 billion), up from 3.33 billion pounds in the 2004 holiday season, the Interactive Media in Retail Group said in a statement.

Overall in 2005, U.K. shoppers spent 19.2 billion pounds (Ђ27.94 billion; US$33.79 billion) at online stores, 32 percent more than the previous year. On average, each of the 24 million people who shopped on the Internet in 2005 spent 816 pounds (Ђ1,187; US$1,436) over the course of the year and 208 pounds (Ђ302; US$366) in the run-up to Christmas.

"(Consumers) want the convenience and choice that online shopping provides," IMRG's managing director Jo Tucker said. "Many just don't have time to trudge the streets hoping goods are in stock." Businesses reported growth in their online sales. Drugstore operator Boots said its Web site receives more business than its largest store, while supermarket Tesco said a record 1 million consumers bought gifts, food and alcohol from the company's Web site in November and December.

IMRG Chief Executive James Roper, however, cautioned that many goods are either not available or difficult to find online. "Large gaps exist in the supply market, such as high-end fashion and real estate," he said. "Even leading retailers often only make a small proportion of their total inventory available online, and many don't bother with spares at all."

IMRG, however, predicts a 36 percent increase in Internet shopping this year, with sales reaching 26 billion pounds (Ђ37.84 billion; US$45.76 billion). The group also sees average individual consumer spending reaching a record of more than 1,000 pounds (Ђ1,455; US$1,760), reports the AP. N.U.