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Shoppers Flock to Virtual High Street

While the traditional high street struggled in 2008, leading to a number of unfortunate business windups, the virtual high street continued to gain market share with impressive increases in both sales and visitor figures.

According to Mark Howe of Google, M&S’ online sales in the 13 weeks to December 27 grew by a hefty 29% despite overall sales declining by 3.4%. Similarly, Debenhams’ online business enjoyed year-to-date sales growth of 37.4%. Internet traffic increased dramatically as well with an average 37% increase in unique visitors between October and December compared to last Christmas.

Meanwhile, the Web only vendors also demonstrated the positive trend for Internet shopping as Play.com and ASOS experienced significant growth and Amazon, the biggest online consumer brands retailer in Britain, delivered record figures over the holiday season. For example, Amazon saw an 18% growth in visitors compared to the Christmas 2007, while Play.com had a 35% boost to its footfall numbers.

The three most visited sites continued to be Amazon, Argos and Tesco respectively and of the five major retail sectors online, ‘home and fashion’, which includes the likes of Marks & Spencer and Next, had the largest year-on-year growth at 30%.

These figures not only show that the Internet is a booming retail sector in its own right but also an excellent way to build robustness into any retailer’s business model. Tesco and M&S have demonstrated this in their Q4 2008 figures which show that investing in their online presence has allowed them to offset a portion of their disappointing high street performance.

So in 2009 company CEOs, CIOs and CFOs should be thinking about an online presence as a must if they want to succeed in the modern business environment.

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