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Online sales soar and West End retailers look forward to £1 billion trading boom

After a slow summer and Autumn retailers are finally hearing the welcome sound of tills ringing as consumers flock to the high street and online for a serious bit of Christmas shopping.

Online retail sales in particular have been booming (as forecast) for many retailers in the past few weeks, with John Lewis reporting a 9.3 per cent leap to £124 million in the week to December 1. Sales at Waitrose rose by 7.8 per cent over the week and online revenue rocketed by 58.2%.

Johnlewis.com has also recorded its best ever online trading week, up 38 per cent year-on-year, and logged over a million visits to its website for the first time. The predicted rush on Cyber Monday kick was instrumental in ‘kick-starting December’s sales online’ according to Sean O’Connor, head of online delivery and customer experience.

Electricals, home and technology sales had a 21.5 per cent uplift compared with 2011, with tablets, ebook readers and small electrical items leading the charge. Knitwear, Ugg boots and other woollies rose by 6.3 per cent, homeware sales rose by 2.9 per cent and textiles were up by 8 per cent.

During the week ending December 8 John Lewis reported online sales reached a record £42m, with sales on Cyber Monday, December 3 reaching £7.3m.  Overall sales were up 15 per cent compared with the same week last year at £142m.

Out in London’s West End high end department store Fortnum & Mason had its best ever Saturday trading at the weekend as a massive surge of shoppers hit the capital, spending £150 million and smashing all trading records. The managing director of Fortnum’s, Ewan Ventners, said “it was extraordinary we could not have fitted a single extra person in the building.” Sales rose by 13 per cent year-on-year.

The New West End Company reported that footfall had risen by 16.5 per cent compared with the same weekend last year, thanks in part to ‘perfect’ weather conditions. The Feast of the Immaculate Conception holiday in Spain, Italy and Portugal also helped swell the ranks of tourist shoppers from mainland Europe.

Selfridges also said trading was exceptionally strong on both Saturday and Sunday, with queues outside the store from 9.00 am and a full carpark by 9.30.

Trading at Liberty was just as strong, with the upmarket store reporting its best day for 15 years last Friday and an increase in footfall of 15 per cent. Hopes for the rest of the month are also very optimistic, especially for the Christmas shop and perfume counters.

Over £1 billion is forecast to be spent in London’s West End in the six week trading period to December 24 2012.