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Online sales blitz High Street

Internet shoppers now spend almost as much online as they do in stores, it was revealed last night.

A record £8.2billion of goods were brought from websites last year, compared with £9.4billion, sold in the high street.

Experts say Britons increasingly prefer to browse for bargains from the comfort of a computer chair, having too little time to face the overcrowded stores.

Online purchases accounted for almost half the growth in retail spending last year and the boom will send shockwaves through the industry, according to a report by consumer analyst Verdict.

Last years 28.9 per cent surge in Internet sales, totalling £1.8billion, was nearly 19 times higher than that recorded in the shops.

Customer confidence in ‘e-tail’ websites has grown as online security has been tightened.

But the cut-throat competition is causing headaches for many traditional stores. HMV boss Alan Giles announced he was standing down last month – as industry experts said the music retailer was struggling to keep up with Internet CD sales., for example, enjoyed a record December and delivered 480,000 gifts per day – mostly CD’s and books - in the run up to Christmas.

One in 4 Britons, or 14.6million people, brought goods online in 2005, Verdict found.

People aged 35-44 were the biggest spenders but women splashed out the most – an average of £579 compared with £543 for men.

Nick Gladding of Verdict warned: ‘Online retailers are far more formidable competitors to High Street shops than current sales figures suggest. There is still a lot of room for growth.’

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