Online sales to prop up festive spending

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Christmas sales in the UK are expected to increase by 1 per cent – less than a third of last year’s growth, a new report has predicted.

Internet retailing is set to play a crucial role in “propping up” retail growth over the festive season, research by online shopping comparison website Kelkoo showed.

Christmas sales are expected to rise by 1 per cent, or £680m, to £69.09bn, compared with an increase of 3.2 per cent last year, said the report.

Online sales will rise by 16 per cent, or £1.88bn, to £13.4bn this year, half the rate of last year’s growth, said Kelkoo.

Chris Simpson, of Kelkoo, said: “The peak weeks of Christmas trading are critical for retailers, as many will earn up to 50 per cent of their profits during this period.

“Throughout the year, the retail sector is a major contributor to the UK economy, employing over 2.9 million people across nearly 290,000 retail stores and online businesses, and responsible for annual retail sales of £297bn.

“The retail industry is seen by economists as a leading indicator of economic trends, and results this Christmas will prove vital in stimulating retail growth and aiding the UK economic recovery as a whole.

“The outlook this Christmas shows some signs of promise for retailers despite the harsh economic climate. Online spending is showing no signs of abating, and is mounting a real challenge to the dominance of the high street which, for the third year running, is expected to see a decline.

“Internet sales across the UK are set to be more important than ever, with consumers spending record amounts online, and online commerce acting as the primary driving force for overall retail growth during the festive season.

“In the meantime, a climate of government cuts and economic uncertainty is likely to undermine consumer spending, meaning consumers will be as determined as ever to make sure they are getting the best prices, which could explain why we expect to see many of them head online for their Christmas shopping.”

n People fear more for their financial health than their physical well-being over the next six months, a report suggested.

The Hopes And Fears survey found that nearly a third of people believe their biggest concern will be money-related.

This includes worries about not be able to make ends meet, sinking into further debt, a friend or family member having money problems and the possibility of sinking into a double-dip recession.

Health came in second place, with 23 per cent saying they were concerned about their own wellbeing or that of family members.

Opinium Research, which carried out the study, said this was an about-turn from six months ago, when health was the biggest concern in its research and finance came second.

James Endersby, managing director of Opinium Research, said: “What is alarming is the number of different financial concerns that now top people’s worries, demonstrating that consumers do not see an end in sight for these fiscal troubles.”