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Happy Christmas for retailers as they brace for busiest online shopping day ever

Shoppers expected to spend £222,222 every minute on gifts during Cyber Monday

Retailers are bracing themselves for a pre-Christmas online onslaught tomorrow evening which analysts predict will make Monday the busiest ever internet shopping day in the UK.

The first Monday in December has become known in the retail trade as Cyber Monday because of an annual spike in online sales, attributed to consumers receiving the last pay cheque before Christmas and spending the weekend browsing.

It has become the busiest online sales day of the year with millions logging on when they return home from work, with orders peaking between 8pm and 9pm. This year it is expected to break all records with £222,222 spent a minute, mainly on hi-tech goods such as iPads and headphones.

Amazon is expecting the busiest day in its history in the UK and has taken on an extra 10,000 seasonal staff to cope. It expects orders will peak at 9.20pm.

“Monday 3 December could be the busiest day in the history of Amazon.co.uk,” said  managing director Christopher North. “As people increasingly shop on mobile devices and benefit from fast broadband at home, we’re seeing a move towards customers buying their Christmas gifts later in the evening when they are at home relaxing.” Retailers are planning discounts and offers to coincide with the sales spike. Amazon has also chosen today to launch its new online fashion store in a bid to take on the likes of Net-a-Porter and ASOS.

Overall it is estimated that £320m will be spent today with consumers making 115 million website visits – an increase of 36 per cent on last year – according to online analysts Experian. Visa said it will handle 6.8 million card transactions, an increase of 21 per cent on last year, or 4,722 transactions every minute.

Marks & Spencer and John Lewis also said they were preparing for their busiest online day ever, part of the shift from high street to online retail.

John Lewis says its online sales have increased dramatically over the past year, with a third of customers using mobile phones or tablet computers to place their orders. “JohnLewis.com is growing at a rate of 40 per cent this year, and now accounts for about a quarter of our trade,” said buying and brand director Peter Ruis.

M&S online saw its orders triple on Cyber Monday last year compared with average days. This year it has recruited an additional 800 employees at its UK distribution centres and doubled the number of employees working in its e-commerce call centre.

David Walmsley, multi-channel development director at M&S, said: “For months, we’ve been planning behind the scenes to make sure we’re fully prepared to manage the huge uplift in orders we’re expecting.”

Shoppers will turn to the internet in increasing numbers throughout this month, research from the Royal Mail suggests. It said 43 per cent of people surveyed are planning to do more Christmas shopping online than last year and 60 per are planning to spend longer choosing their gifts online.

Royal Mail has opened eight dedicated parcel sorting centres for the Christmas period.

But all is not lost for the high street. Many people will still leave their Christmas shopping until the last minute. The weekend of December 22 and 23 expected to draw peak numbers of shoppers this year.

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