Ecommerce retailers brought forward online sales promotions

The battle for the UK consumers’ money has moved online with retailers bringing forward the start of Christmas sales after reports of lacklustre spending on the High Street.Marks & Spencer and John Lewis are among major names who started discounting online in the hope that shoppers will be browsing sites over Christmas.

Sales online have traditionally begun on Christmas Day or Boxing Day, but with the British Retail Consortium (BRC) warning that Christmas sales generally were likely to be “acceptable” rather than “exceptional”, retailers are looking for every opportunity to maximise sales.

M&S began its sales online at midday on Monday, while department store John Lewis said that it had cut online prices when its stores closed on Christmas Eve.

A report from Ofcom, the telecoms regulator, has estimated that shoppers spend an average £1,000 a year online each year. This is more than in any other country, including the US.

The popularity of online retailing contrasts with continued problems for the High Street.

The BRC calculated that £5 billion was spent in the shops on Saturday and Sunday combined, the last weekend before Christmas. But Richard Dodd, the BRC’s head of Media and Campaigns, said that was nothing to get excited about, adding: “It’s been a very busy weekend which will be crucial to delivering a Christmas that is acceptable, rather than exceptional.”

He forecast a modest increase in cash spending on a year go, but not necessarily any significant increase because household finances are under pressure.

Nevertheless, some shops reported brisk trading.

More than a million visitors were in London’s West End during the three day period from Saturday to Christmas Eve, during which more than £100 million was spent.