Click and Collect Christmas hailed

Christmas shoppingThe British high street is set to receive a welcome boost this Christmas - from the booming online retail sector.

The popularity of the "Click and Collect" service has seen the two previously rival sectors join forces to push up festive profits.

The service allows shoppers to purchase goods from a shop's website, often at reduced prices, and collect their presents from their nearest outlet, or from other local convenience shops.

In a market dominated by special offers, two-thirds of high street shops are already offering discounts in the run-up to Christmas, averaging at least a third off, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Michael Weedon, deputy chief executive and communications director of the British Independent Retailers Association, has praised Click and Collect as "the perfect answer to the high street".

He said: "Everyone wants a product when they buy it, not in two days' time. It gets the customer into the shop, and the thing we've seen under pressure through the whole of this year is footfall. It's odd that it has taken this long to take off; in many ways it is a Click and Collect Christmas.

"Internet shopping is a sales channel, but it's not a fulfilment channel. The shop is both things; sales and fulfilment.

"The internet is a brilliant way of selling things 24 hours a day worldwide, but it is not a fulfilment channel. Bringing these two things together in Click and Collect makes what's available in the shop available online 24/7, and promises footfall for the future for the high street."

John Lewis allows customers to collect purchases from either John Lewis or Waitrose outlets, and has staggered its Christmas sale to begin online at 5pm on Christmas Eve, crossing over into shops on December 27.

A spokeswoman for John Lewis said: "The earlier start for online is something we've been doing for a number of years in response to customer demand."