Amazon was the top UK online retailer in the last quarter of 2008, followed by Argos, Tesco, Play.com and Marks & Spencer, according to new research.
The figures, from research firm Nielsen Online, the top 10 retailers online during the 2008 Christmas shopping period averaged a 37 percent increase in unique visitors compared to the 2007 Christmas shopping period.
Significantly, Amazon and Play were the only 'pure play' online retailers in the top 10 list. Amazon topped the list, averaging 15.6 million unique Britons each month in Q4. Play.com ranked 4th in the list, averaging 5.7 million users.
Among the most popular retailers online Littlewoods (+66%), Asda (+53%) and Marks & Spencer (+46%) had the largest year-on-year growth.
Most Popular UK Online Retailers: Q4 2008 (October-December)
Marks & Spencer
Alex Burmaster, Communications Director at Nielsen Online said: "The fact that the leading retailers online managed to attract over a third more visitors than they did for Christmas 2007 meant online retail provided some very bright news amidst the overall gloomy economic picture at the end of 2008.
"It's not that online retail will be impervious to the tighter financial environment but it has an opportunity to weather the storm better than other elements of the economy, particularly if retailers promote the web as the best way of finding cheaper goods in the most efficient and convenient way possible."
The five major retail-focused sectors online averaged a 19 percent increase in unique visitors during the 2008 Christmas shopping period compared to the 2007 period.
The biggest retail sector, Mass Merchandisers (which includes retailers such as Amazon, Argos and Tesco), increased unique visitor numbers by 15 percent in the 2008 Christmas period compared to the 2007 period.
Among the five major retail sectors online, Multi-Category Home & Fashion (which includes sites such as Marks & Spencer, Boots and Next) had the largest year-on-year growth (+30 percent).
Burmaster said: "Across the board, the online retail sectors have done well, all attracting more visitors in the 2008 Christmas shopping period than they did in 2007. The 'Multi-Category Home and Fashion' sector - which includes sites that sell various home & fashion goods including strong growth retailers such as Laura Ashley, BHS and T.K. Maxx - has done particularly well, growing at around five times the rate of overall Internet growth.
"Again, this is encouraging for the retail sector in 2009 as people aren't coming online just for small-ticket, everyday items like CD's and groceries but are increasingly looking to buy all manner of items from clothes for all the family to furniture across the entire house."