UK Holiday E-Commerce Sales Soar

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Holiday e-commerce sales are up considerably in the United Kingdom, according to figures from Interactive Media in Retail Group and Britain's Royal Mail PLC.

Interactive Media in Retail Group claims that Internet shopping in Britain reached an all-time high in November. An estimated 16 million British online shoppers spent $2 billion last month, about 7 percent of all retail sales.

British e-commerce rose 44 percent last month, the group said, compared with 3.6 percent growth for all retail sales based on figures from the British Retail Consortium. It is not just the volume of goods ordered online, but also the type that Britons are ordering.

"With growth in goods such as furniture and electrical goods, it is clear shoppers are not just buying the traditional CDs and books but bulkier items that do not fit through the letterbox," Ross Drake, head of goods distribution at Royal Mail, said in a statement.

Sales of electrical goods are up 4 percent year-over-year, and furniture and apparel are 3 percent higher.

The postal service also is confident that this Christmas season is on course to becoming Britain's busiest for online shopping. It projects holiday e-commerce sales of $5.8 billion for November and December, double that of last year.

That increase will contribute to the $26.1 billion forecast by Royal Mail for British e-commerce this year, a 100 percent rise over 2002.

Royal Mail and its Parcelforce Worldwide unit expect to deliver 40 million products ordered over the Internet by Christmas Day, doubling last year's volume.

Royal Mail is exploring other ways to extract business from Internet and mail-order shopping.

A service called Local Collect has delivered almost 2 million packages since its February 2001 inception. Using this option, consumers can have items delivered to their local post office if they are not at home for a delivery. Nearly 15,500 post offices across Britain offer Local Collect for an 87-cent fee per package.

Meanwhile, Royal Mail said Christmas shopping is making millions of Britons ill. The inhouse survey said 27 percent of 14 million British Christmas shoppers reported headaches and 800,000 claimed to have stomachaches. One in five admitted to losing their temper, and 40 percent claimed they felt irritated while shopping.

Some 700,000 found the ordeal so traumatizing they burst into tears.

All these shoppers were buying in bricks-and-mortar stores -- no good to Royal Mail.

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