By Marcus Leach

Festive shoppers should refrain from purchasing all their Christmas shopping online this year and instead look to the high street, the Forum of Private Business has said.

The not-for-profit group believes that by spread-purchasing gifts and groceries consumers would lessen the chance of repeat scenes from last year when bad weather crippled postal services and left many items undelivered before Christmas.

The warning comes after it emerged this week that the UK has seen a huge surge in Internet shopping — online sales are predicted to be as much as 17% up on last year — and media reports suggesting stretched postal services would be unable to cope with more extreme weather

“The inability of UK infrastructure to cope during extreme weather, coupled with a stretched postal service, meant huge problems for many people who’d opted to purchases goods last Christmas via the web. The pain was particular acute for those who did their last minute grocery shopping via the web," Senior Policy Adviser at the Forum, Phil McCabe, said.

“With this year’s surge in Internet shopping and hundreds of thousands more parcels in the system than anticipated, the delivery network will be even less able to cope in the event of another bout of bad weather.

“With this in mind we would remind Christmas shoppers not to forget their local high street shops, which offer unrivalled levels of service, choice and quality."

High street shops have slashed prices early this year to entice the crowds, and canny shoppers have been able to pick up some amazing deals. Cash-strapped British consumers are increasingly savvy when it comes to seeking out a bargain, and high street shops are introducing new promotions daily.

“In-store shoppers also have the advantage of getting to grips with products up close before buying them rather than simply viewing items on a computer screen, but crucially, they will also be secure in the knowledge that their purchases will not be stuck in a warehouse awaiting delivery come Christmas Day," added Mr McCabe.

“Consumers choosing this option would also be doing their bit to boost the fortunes of their local high street, which we know is under threat from the ever aggressive policies of the supermarkets, who rely on their size and scale to undermine smaller retailers.

“Over the past number of years high street sales among independent shops have been eroded by out-of-town supermarkets sucking up the trade, and more recently by the emergence of online shopping which is now offered by most of the big supermarkets and other big players.

“Shoppers last year saw that there were downsides to shopping exclusively on ‘cyber street’ as opposed the high street. The appalling weather, which left roads blocked, highlighted the problems of relying on second parties to deliver goods when deadlines are crucial.

“With forecasters predicting more wintry weather for parts of the country in the run up to Christmas, people should think twice before putting all their shopping eggs in one basket this year.”

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