Marks & Spencer announced its Christmas trading figures today, with like for like sales up by 5.6%, including a 70% increase in online earnings.

The move represents another success story for the etail sector in the 2006 Christmas season, with online sales rising dramatically compared with 2005. More and more shoppers have wisely chosen to avoid the stress and hassle of high street shopping in favour of buying online.

Overall, on the high street, sales are estimated to have risen 2.5% over last year, but the biggest story has been the rise in online spending.

The IMRG reported last week that online sales in the four weeks leading up to Christmas reached £3.7bn, an increase of almost 50% on 2005. Its CEO James Roper believes that 25m people are now shopping online in the UK.

Several major UK retailers with a strong internet presence recorded impressive increases in online turnover, compared with the same period last Christmas:

  • Online turnover at John Lewis rose by 60%.
  • Wine merchant Majestic saw a 30% increase in online sales.
  • received 1.3m orders in the four weeks up to Christmas, an increase of 30% on 2005.

In the US, the overall picture is similar, though the increase on Christmas 2005 seems less dramatic.

Figures for November 1 to December 26 from comScore show an increase of 26% in online sales over the same period in 2005, with earnings for the period totalling over $23bn.

For more figures on Christmas 2006, plus a wealth of other useful information, see the January 2007 update of our Internet Statistics Compendium.