The early indicators suggest that Cyber Monday – the UK's Christmas shopping season bonanza – may have been responsible for the biggest ever day of online sales, but shoppers left it late.
Online giant Amazon, which has been preparing for the Christmas rush by hiring more than 10,000 seasonal staff, reported making more sales on Monday 3 December than during any other day in 2012.
“I can confirm that Cyber Monday was the busiest day of the year to date at Amazon.co.uk,” a spokeswoman told V3.
Amazon was not alone in having expected a pre-Christmas rush, with Visa Europe predicting ahead of the day that 6.8 million sales would be made online – up 21 percent on Cyber Monday 2011.
Meanwhile, credit agency Experian said it expected UK shoppers to make 115 million visits to e-commerce sites, up 36 percent on last year.
It has not been possible to verify whether the Experian or the Visa predictions proved to be accurate at the time of writing.
But according to Salescycle.com, a e-commerce firm focussed on helping retailers reduce abandoned carts, the expected rush may not have been really noticeable until later in the day. Its figures suggest that shoppers were not buying much more than they had on Monday 26 November – until the last few hours, where there was a sudden peak.
Dominic Edmunds, founder of Salescycle posted this quick take on the differences in activity:
That last-minute rush reflects a similar pattern to shopping on the high street, albeit over a much longer time scale.
According to the British Retail Consortium, Christmas shoppers have been cautious to date, with sales up just 0.4 percent on a like-for-like basis from November 2011.
“Customers are taking care not to spend too much too soon, although must-have toys and technology items did well as people bought early so as not to be disappointed,” said Stephen Robertson, director general of the BRC.
The US has a different Cyber Monday to the UK, with most online sales there expected to have taken place on 26 November, the Monday following Thanksgiving, and the post-Thanksgiving Black Friday sales.
According to IBM, Cyber Monday in the US saw online sales jump 30 percent year-on-year, with the average shopper spending $185 each on their purchases.