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The UK online retail market witnessed strong growth in December, particularly during the weekend before Christmas day, to ensure retail sales didn't fall across the month.
Like-for-like sales climbed by 1.9% in the five weeks through Dec. 29, BDO said in its High Street Sales Tracker report released today. The data includes companies with annual revenue between £5 million ($7.8 million) and £500 million.
Online purchases gained the most of any type, rising 30.9%, as flexible delivery options attracted buyers, while sales at fashion stores were little changed. Footfall rose 22% on the weekend before Christmas from a year ago.
Online sales shot up by 17.8% - the fastest rate for a year - as shoppers with smartphones and tablets took advantage of more sophisticated websites and increasingly popular "click-and-collect" services.
So-called Cyber Monday, the first Monday in December, kickstarted the Christmas trading period, and John Lewis, House of Fraser and Next, the first to provide Christmas trading updates, reported a surge in online sales.
Retailers had been relying on Christmas sales to help rescue a year when high unemployment and the European debt crisis have blighted spending.
Many store owners offered discounts online on Christmas Day, when Britons made a record 107 million visits to retail websites, up 86% from 2011, according to credit- reporting service Experian Plc.
It rounded off a tough year for UK retailers, when a number of big High Street names went into administration, including Peacocks, Game, Aquascutum, Clinton Cards and Comet.
The same tough conditions have been forecast in January for retailers as consumers face up to their credit card bills after Christmas, and it's likely 2013 will bring more of the same challenges.
For more information on the UK online retail market, see the latest research: UK Online Retail Market
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