Christmas online shopping could overtake present buying on the high street for the first time this year, with bargain hunters increasingly turning to online delivery services for convenience and discount codes.
Internet sales already account for 10 per cent of all UK retail sales – around £27bn worth of goods.
Analysts predict that this Christmas, time-pressed shoppers going online could outnumber those tramping through high streets and shopping centres for the first time.
A survey by the global retail analyst SDL estimates that online shopping will be around 54 per cent this year, driven by the purchase of electronic goods, such as smartphones and tablets.
The British Retail Consortium believes that at least 44 per cent of Christmas purchases – and possibly more than 50 per cent – will be made online, up from 41 per cent last year.
A spokeswoman said: "It's a very fast-growing market. It could go over 50 per cent, it wouldn't be surprising if it did."
High-street retailers are bracing themselves for a last-minute shopping frenzy this weekend.
John Lewis offered some festive cheer from the retail sector by reporting a second successive week of record sales. The department store chain, which has 39 shops across the UK, took £147.8m at the tills and online in the week to Saturday, an increase of 11.1 per cent on a year earlier.
The ease with which shoppers can make purchases while on the move or in front of the television, using smartphones and tablets, is behind the increase in internet shopping, according to David McCorquodale, the head of retail at KPMG.
The massive popularity of "click and collect" – where customers choose goods online but pay and collect in store – meant that the high street was far from finished, he added.
"Click and collect is counted as an in-store purchase and it shows the rise of multichannel shopping. People will spend Saturday in town centres browsing goods before going home to compare prices and make their purchase online on Sunday evening or Monday.
The first product ever sold on Amazon – the UK's largest online retailer, with net sales of £2.91bn last year – was a science textbook, by Douglas Hofstadter, in July 1995.