While many high street retailers reported disappointing figures for the Christmas period, online merchants seem to have enjoyed a bumper festive season and reports suggest this trend is likely to continue into 2005. Market leading ecommerce software vendor, Actinic, says that its annual poll of small to medium revealed a 60 per cent year on year increase in web sales during November and December 2004. Average turnover increased by 80 per cent over the same period, indicating that the value of online orders is also rising. Some respondents noted a corresponding decline in sales from their bricks and mortar shops. Actinic CEO Chris Barling commented “We may be seeing the first signs that the internet is impacting not just high street sales, but also the inclination of retailers to expand their real world outlets. Each year adds to the feeling that the original dot-com boom hype was not so much wrong as too early.”

These findings are backed up by a report from Forrester Research which found that 2004 saw a 50 per cent increase in the number of Europeans shopping online over the previous year. The company interviewed 22,907 consumers in seven major western European nations for the survey, which concluded that over 60 million people in Europe shop online. The UK and Germany account for a combined 40 million online shoppers, and the male to female split is close to 50/50 with women shoppers totalling 27.4 million.

More research, carried out by Vanson Bourne on behalf of web hosting provider NetBenefit, found that UK small to medium enterprises expect to increase the revenue from their online operations by up to 25 per cent in 2005. The survey quizzed 150 business of between 5 and 50 employees. 66 per cent of businesses said that they already produce up to 25 per cent of their revenue from their web sites and 62 per cent expect this to increase in 2005.

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