Fifth of spending online as the net really starts to click with customers

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The Independent Online

Nearly one in every five pounds spent on shopping in the UK is done online – the highest level recorded, according to the British Retail Consortium.

Yesterday was the biggest online day for retailers, with takings expected to have hit £500m. Retailers are desperate to tap into online business, and several innovations have been launched to make the process simpler.

Network Rail today said it will offer collection points in some of its stations in recognition that more people are shopping online but want to collect their items from convenient hubs.

The BRC and KPMG also found that online sales were up 15 per cent in November compared with the same month last year, and are growing faster than the yearly average of 12 per cent.

However, the high street has also seen an increase in like-for-like sales, up 0.6 per cent last month against a year earlier, as the cold weather saw pent-up demand for warmer clothing released. Food sales suffered, mainly because of lower inflation levels – as figures are calculated on the amount of money spent – but analysts have seen that customers are starting to diverge between wanting high-end food from the likes of Waitrose, or cheaper basics from Aldi and Lidl.

David McCorquodale, the head of retail at KPMG, said: "There is a brutal price war being waged among the grocers, with discount brands appealing to cash-strapped consumers and steadily gaining market share.

"Christmas food sales may well polarise between the luxury treat and the discounted necessity, leaving the middle ground as the battlefield."

He added that shoppers were waiting longer than ever to make their Christmas purchases in the hope retailers could start discounting before the 25th.

"Shoppers are delaying purchases for as long as possible in the hope of securing a discount," he said. "Quite who will crack first in this war of nerves remains to be seen."

Network Rail is to launch a trial at Milton Keynes for customers to pick up packages from the likes of Amazon and Ebay to avoid the disappointment of missing the delivery at home.

The trial will only be open to Network Rail staff at first, but the idea is to allow online shoppers to use the station site as an address point for packages.

Customers are likely to be charged a premium for the service but it is not yet known how much it will cost. The parcel shops, called Doddle stores, are part of a joint venture with Travelex's founder Lloyd Dorfman. They will also be trialled in Paddington and Woking next year.

Network Rail is in negotiations with several retailers in the hope of securing deals for offering services to them, with companies such as Amazon already expressing an interest in having lockers at stations for customer collection.

Asda last week launched a collection service from six London Underground stations where customers can place grocery orders in the morning and collect them after work.