Cash-strapped shoppers are moving offline and shopping at discount stores like Primark and Matalan, mainly to save on delivery charges, according to a survey released this week.

Verdict Research’s e-Retail 2009 report predicts online retail growth of 13.3% this year, to £20.9bn, but also had some interesting stats about how the recession is affecting online shopping habits. 

The report suggests that C2s and DEs (skilled / unskilled working class according to the NRS grades) are deserting the web and looking to buy homewares DIY and clothing offline.

With finances squeezed by the recession, they are looking to discount stores such as Primark, Poundland and Matalan, and thus avoid paying delivery charges to shop online.

In addition, many well known discount retailers, including Primark and H&M are not selling online, while Matalan and TK Maxx have only just launched e-commerce sites, and still sell a limited range of products online.

However, this trend has been offset by other bargain hunters that have been turning to the web to get the best deal on items like electrical goods, which can frequently be found cheaper online.

This, and other stats from the survey, provides more compelling reasons for online retailers to offer free delivery as a sales driver.

In Verdict’s survey, 28.5% of online shoppers said delivery charges were a problem, while 59.4% said it was an important consideration when deciding on a purchase.

Previous surveys have shown the importance of free delivery, such as these stats from Forsee Results which suggest that, as well as being a factor in deciding to shop at one website over another, it can also persuade people to switch online from offline.  

The report predicts that, since retailers like Play.com, John Lewis and Amazon are offering some form of free delivery, others will eventually have to follow suit.

It is certainly one way to attract recession-hit shoppers who have to control their spending, and can also play a role in marketing campaigns, and even have SEO benefits, especially over Christmas.