UK Retailers Work to Entice Early Holiday Shopping

A Royal Mail survey revealed that 55 percent of British online retailers are using various tactics — from sending catalogs to offering free delivery, early price promotions and a festive gift-wrapping service — to encourage shoppers to buy online earlier this year.

E-tailers want to ensure their share of the predicted $8.7 billion to be spent online, according to Interactive Media in Retail Group, a UK-based trade association for e-tailers.

Moreover, Royal Mail predicted last month that it would deliver 70 million items ordered online before Christmas, 15 million more than last year.

The research from Royal Mail/Continental Internet Retailers Report, which surveyed 20 retailers with an online presence, also found that Internet retailers increasingly are adopting catalogs to entice consumers online this year. Sixty percent of multichannel retailers now send catalogs, double that of five years ago.

IMRG also noticed a rise in online spending in October, with sales up 40 percent versus October 2004.

“Internet retailers are concentrating much more this year on driving earlier sales to ensure they capture their share of the market,” said Richard Roche, head of multichannel retail at Royal Mail, Britain's postal service. “While online sales are expected to reach record levels this year, retailers also see the benefit of encouraging earlier sales to help them spread the workload and reduce the prospect of large peaks and troughs in online buying behavior.”

Royal Mail also said that consumers are recognizing that online shopping is convenient. The Royal Mail/Continental Home Shopping Tracker survey of Internet shoppers released last week shows that 76 percent shop online on a weekday and 59 percent on a weekday evening, avoiding long lines in stores.

And figures from a Royal Mail/MORI study of 1,863 consumers in September show that online shoppers are enthusiastic about catalogs, as 36 percent agree that having an online retailer's catalog to browse makes them more likely to buy something from their Web site. MORI, Market & Opinion Research International, is the largest independently owned market research company in Great Britain.

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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