Online market research house IMRG reported that 3.8 million people spent £102m online on Christmas Day 2008. In the Christmas run-up, online shopping was later, longer and stronger than in 2007, it said.
Christmas Day itself was now a favourite online shopping day with consumers and retailers alike, it said. Christmas Day sales were up 21% compared to last year, with the average sale value rising to £26.8 per shopper from £19.09.
E-retailers that ran Christmas Day sales included Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, Boots, Debenhams, Play.com, MandM Direct and British Airways.
James Roper, IMRG's CEO, said, "Though the number of people shopping on Christmas Day was 14% lower than in 2007, the volume of transactions was 26% higher, and the value rose by 21%, indicating that serious bargain hunting was the order of the day."
Traffic to retail websites during the run-up to Christmas 2008 was higher than the 2007 level, but transaction volumes rose even more sharply - up 9% in November and 28% in December, according to payments firm Secure Trading. Ticket values were down, indicating that more people were buying lower-priced items.
Online digital research expert eDigitalResearch, confirmed this view, adding that aggressive sale tactics from online retailers in the run up to Christmas saw people monitoring sites for the best deals. Traffic was up from 2007 on 22, 23 and 24 December but almost doubled between Christmas Day and Boxing Day, which was the busiest single day for online retailers in 2008.
"The traffic online during Christmas was heavily affected by the sales starting early this year," comments director at eDigitalResearch, Chris Russell. "We saw most traditional retailers start their online sales when stores closed on Christmas Eve, with pure play retailers starting after last delivery day deadlines were reached. This means that the increased purchases on Christmas Day and the huge surge in traffic on Boxing Day could have been as a result of this."
Jon Prideaux, of SecureTrading, said, "More people are spending but they are spending less and they hung on later before getting out their cards. Normally, November is our biggest month, but this year Christmas sales came later. In 2007 there was a 2% drop from November to December as people finished their shopping in good time. This year we saw a 15% rise.
"In the Christmas week people went crazy with an increase of a 91% in the number of transactions processed, and transaction values were up by three quarters," he said.
But the recession is still a factor with transaction values dropping steadily throughout the year. The average purchase size shrank from an average spend of £92 (2007: £94) in August, to a low of £77 (2007: £83) in December.