Online shoppers clean up

If Napoleon were still alive today, he might have to amend his famous judgement on the Brits. According to new research from Verdict, we're rapidly becoming a nation of virtual shopkeepers. Online shopping spend rose a hefty 33.4% in 2006 to stand at £10.9bn - that's double what it was in 2003 and an amazing 100 times more than it was back in 1997, at the dawn of the era.

Last Updated: 19 Jun 2015

It also predicts that by 2011, online spend will have almost tripled again, to £28.1bn - more than a grand a year per online customer. And the figures don't even include sales of flights, tickets or insurance - all very popular web buys.

Despite these impressive figures, though, there are signs that the market may be maturing. For a start, most big retailers that are going to go online have done so already, and those not involved in virtual commerce now are unlikely to join in any time soon, either because of the cost of entry or because their business models don't work online.

Verdict also predicts that the vast majority of growth will come from existing shoppers spending more rather than from genuinely new customers joining the interweb. And those people with broadband access, it says, are much more likely to shop than those without. Given that only a third of Britain's 30m-odd net users have broadband, it looks as though there really is a digital divide, at least when it comes to doing the shopping.

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