Itâ€™s not just CDs, books and groceries consumers are buying over the internet this Christmas - shoppers are looking for luxury online too.
Experts from Kingston Universityâ€™s eCommerce Research Group say that growing numbers of customers are turning to the internet to buy luxury products such as clothes, jewellery, cosmetics and accessories, especially during the festive season when goods are in high demand and stores run out of stock quickly.
â€œAvailability is key at this time of year,â€ said Dr Ruth Rettie, senior lecturer in marketing at Kingston University.
â€œLuxury brands arenâ€™t available in every high street store and even where they are, shops tend to sell out of them quickly.
Shopping over the internet is much more efficient as it allows customers to search for the item and brand name they want, giving them instant access and allowing them to purchase an item they wouldnâ€™t necessarily be able to buy offline.â€
The internet is also allowing customers who wouldnâ€™t normally buy luxury brands to tap into the market.
Dr Francesca Dallâ€™Olmo Riley, reader at Kingston Universityâ€™s Business School, has carried out extensive research into the subject.
â€œThe web gives consumers who donâ€™t have nearby access to a luxury brand outlet, or who might feel intimidated by entering such â€˜temples of luxuryâ€™, new opportunities to buy these goods,â€ she said.
The news comes as reports predict a huge surge in online sales over the festive period and for 2007 as a whole, with the Interactive Media and Retail Group (IMRG) forecasting internet Christmas sales of Â£17.6 billion across the United Kingdom, an 82 per cent increase on the Â£9.6 billion recorded for the same period in 2006.
Dr Dallâ€™Olmo Riley puts the rise down to greater broadband access and consumersâ€™ growing familiarity with e-commerce.Â
â€œThereâ€™s no doubt that internet shopping in general is growing, especially during the Christmas period when people prefer to order goods from the comfort of their own homes rather than brave the queues of the high street,â€ she said.
But the web is not about to replace the traditional high street shop just yet, especially as far as the luxury market is concerned.
â€œMany consumers seem to use both the internet and traditional shops.
For example, they go into stores to try clothes on then log on to the internet to scout around for the best prices,â€ Dr Dallâ€™Olmo Riley explained.
â€œBut most consumers still perceive shopping for luxury items as a pleasure in itself and the internet canâ€™t provide them with that experience.â€