Catch the Web and Surf Away from Shopping Agonies

Whoever dubbed shopping ‘retail therapy’ was clearly not thinking of Christmas when they coined the phrase.

The seasonal spending spree is probably one of the great stress creators after moving house, divorce and filling out self-assessment tax forms.

Whereas self-indulgent, mood-placating shopping trips are all about the buyer, Christmas shopping is all about the bought for.

It is hours spent agonising over purchasing the prefect home/personal accessory for relatives you seldom see and whose interests you know nothing about.

You battle from store to store, confronted in each by identical glittery gift packs filled with the type of items you wouldn’t normally grant shelf space.

Indecision gnaws away at you as you hesitate, certain that the lucky recipient will know exactly which chain store you bought it from and how much (or how little) it cost.

There is an end, however, to this agony and it is right at your fingertips. On-line shopping is the new vogue and this year, according to Mori, more than a third of Internet users will be flexing their digits rather than their feet and doing their buying from the comfort of their own homes.

According to the poll, commissioned by on-line video and DVD retailers Blackstar.co.uk, around three million cyber savvy consumers will spend £130 each, a third of their Christmas budget t hrough their computers.

The benefits, apart from free parking, guaranteed good weather and an escape from battling through crowds of other weary present hunters, are savings in both time and money.

Twenty per cent of the people questioned believed that it was cheaper to shop on-line and 35 per cent considered it was quicker.

The favourite purchases are set to be items that can be bought without needing to be looked at for quality or fit, such as CDs, videos and books. These are followed by concert, cinema or theatre tickets, holidays and computer equipment.

The survey also discovered that it was more likely to be Midlanders who would embrace the new technology. Twenty two per cent of them anticipate spending nearly half their festive budget over the Web, compared with 19 per cent of southerners and 12 per cent of northerners.

Jeremy Glover of Blackstar said: ‘Santa has swapped his sleigh for a surfboard this year. 1999 will truly by Britain’s first cyber Christmas.

‘We are accelerating our hiring plans for customer service personnel to cope with the anticipated pre-Christmas demand.’

Two former City dealers are hoping to catch the surf-to-shop wave by establishing a virtual high street where customers can browse in familiar stores.

Joe Green and Darren Liebman have already attracted 16 big name retailers to set up shop in the world’s first 3D internet shopping mall.

WH Smith, BT, C&A, Somerfield, 24-7, Interflora, Thorntons, FH Hinds Jewellers and Thomas Cook can all be found on www.theonlinehighstreet.co.uk

The duo came up with the concept to cut down on the time consuming task of trawling though individual websites.

As well as general goods and services, Odeon cinema tickets and financial services from Barclays Bank and Nationwide Building Society are also available through the site.

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