Smartphone influence on retail 'is set to soar this Christmas'

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The Independent Online

It has revolutionised the way we listen to music, take photos and exchange gossip but the smartphone is now set to also transform the nation's shopping habits this Christmas.

The accountancy firm Deloitte expects that smartphones will "influence" 10 per cent of retail purchases in stores in December, as growth online continues to outstrip its forecast of a modest 1 per cent rise in total retail sales over the festive period.

Deloitte forecasts that consumers will make £330m of festive purchases directly on their smartphones this year and a further £500m via tablet devices. But this figure pales in comparison with the £3.2bn of sales that smartphones will influence this Christmas, as consumers use the devices to research prices, store Christmas shopping lists and engage with friends or family via social media.

This year has seen high street stalwarts, including Game Group, JJB Sports and Comet, collapse into administration, but Deloitte forecasts a 1 per cent spike in total Christmas retail sales, in line with other surveys.

Ian Geddes, the UK head of retail at Deloitte, said there are "more reasons to be optimistic than pessimistic this Christmas". He added: "Consumer confidence has gradually improved over the course of the year and despite the recent increase in inflation, it is much lower than it was 12 months ago easing the pressure on households."

Deloitte's figures for smartphones illustrate how critical it is for retailers to optimise their websites for mobile devices, with it forecasting that online sales will power ahead by 17 per cent this Christmas.

Colin Jeffrey, the head of multichannel retail at Deloitte, added: "The strongest growth will be found online, with purchases completed on mobile phones double or even triple that of last year. It is also going to be a click-and-collect Christmas with those retailers who have invested in this service set to do well as these customers spend more and collections drive footfall into stores."

Deloitte forecasts that although 10 per cent of sales in stores will be influenced by smartphones in December, by 2016 this to rocket to 18 per cent for the full year, equivalent to £43bn of sales."

Separate research from accountancy firm PricewaterhouseCoopers found that 49 per cent of high street retailers last week were having a sale or advertising promotion – such as 3 for 2 – although this is slightly down on last year's 51 per cent at the same time.

PwC found the average price discounts being advertised last week were 36 per cent, up from the 35 per cent at the same point last year and close to the whopping 40 per cent in 2008. Mark Hudson, the retail and consumer consulting leader at PwC, said: "However, the timing of Christmas this year – with a weekend and a Monday ahead of Christmas day – means many shoppers are likely to leave it very late. The traditional game of 'chicken' between retailers and consumers will go all the way to the wire."