Forget Sherry And Mince Pies, It’s Dear Santa.com

SANTA could end up swapping his sleigh for an e-mail address this year as 3.6 million shoppers turn to the Internet to order presents, a new survey reveals.

Almost a third of Britain’s Internet users will be cyber-shopping this Christmas, according to the MORI survey of 500 Internet users commissioned by online video and DVD retailer, BlackStar. co. uk.

Those planning to buy Christmas gifts online said they would spend around £130 each, representing about a third of their total Christmas shopping budget of £446. Thirty-five per cent expected to save time and 20 per cent thought they would save money by buying online.

Men were more likely than women to see the benefits of online shopping, and were twice as likely to see potential costs savings as a benefit.

Only five per cent said they planned to shop online to avoid crowded high streets, and just two per cent of men said they would buy lingerie online.

The most popular items that Internet users are likely to buy online this Christmas are CDs and books (27 per cent), theatre, cinema and concert tickets (14 per cent), and flights, holidays, computer equipment, videos and DVDs (13 per cent).

Most cyber-shopping will be done from home with only seven per cent considering using the facilities at work.

For half of those surveyed, websites would have to offer cheaper prices than the high street, while a third wanted free delivery to make online shopping appealing.

People said they would be encouraged to shop online if websites had fewer hidden charges, such as VAT (28 per cent), and offered assured delivery dates (26 per cent), a no-quibbles exchange policy (25 per cent) and a wider range of products than the high street (21 per cent).

Jeremy Glover, co-founder and director of BlackStar, said: ‘This doesn’t just represent a step up for Christmas cyber-shopping compared to last year. It’s a gigantic leap. This year will truly be Britain’s first cyber-Christmas.

‘We are accelerating our hiring plans for customer service personnel to cope with the anticipated pre-Christmas demand, as our customers say our personalised service and free delivery make online shopping more practical for them.’

The Internet is becoming a forum for other types of retail schemes that go beyond direct selling. The UK online bookstore, www. bol. com, has created an affiliates scheme allowing Internet users in Britain to turn their websites into virtual bookstores and earn 20 per cent of the net BOL discount price on every book sold.

Alexander Broich, BOL’s UK managing director, said: ‘With the BOL Affiliate Programme, every owner of a website, whether it is a personal homepage or a large portal site, can make money out of selling books on their website and by building these partnerships, BOL gains new and powerful distribution channels.’

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