Shoppers are expected to spend more than £500 each online this Christmas as Britons turn from the cold and bustling high street to buy presents on the internet, leaving e-tailers celebrating a record year.
Internet spending will hit £13.6bn between October and December, putting the UK top of the league of European countries for internet retail, according to a report by the US analysts Forrester Research.
The figure would be rise of 40 per cent on the previous year, and would leave Britain accounting for 38 per cent of total European spending, more than France and Germany combined.
But spending could rise even higher in the UK suggests a report by a major fraud prevention service. It says that last week, online sales volume surged 88 per cent higher than the same week in 2006, though online fraud was rising faster still.
The figures spell more gloom for the high street, which has been hit a succession of interest rate rises and poor weather.
Meanwhile, fears about fraud have traditionally dissuaded people from shopping online but that appears to be waning, according to Forrester's report, Europe's 2007 Christmas: An Online Retail Wonderland.
The Internet Media Retail Group, which represents British e-tailers and will soon releases its Christmas forecast, says that the increase in broadband has helped online shopping thrive. Last year annual online sales hit £30bn and it is forecasting sales of £44bn this year.
James Roper, IMRG's chief executive, said: "The significant growth forecast from Forrester can be attributed to many factors, the most significant being the easy access to broadband."
About 10 per cent of all retail sales are now online.
Internet gift sites
Every gadget and gimmick is on this "boys' toys" website. Gifts include My Last Rolo kit and a cocktail fountain. It also sells experiences such as wine tasting and indoor skydiving.
Sample offering: Equaliser T-shirt, which flashes in time to music. £199.95
This spa retreat chain has concocted a potion for every occasion. The range includes anti-ageing lotions and products for pregnant women.
Sample: Aqua Therapy Recharging Bath Tonic contains oils of grapefruit, lemon and coriander. £8
From baby equipment to toys, this individual e-tailer offers a diverting alternative to the "made in China" plastic licensed from TV or films.
Many toys are in traditional wood.
Sample offering: Multi-coloured wooden children's work bench for developing those Bob the Builder skills. £45Reuse content