Tech purchases set to drive Christmas e-shopping

Shoppers looking to treat themselves or loved ones to tech gizmos this Christmas will increasingly be buying online, according to the latest estimates

Christmas is coming -- and the only thing that's looking like getting fat are e-tailers' bank balances.

The predictions from various analyst houses is that this Christmas online consumers will be spending more than last year -- with Britons forging ahead of other European nations, spending up to £1.3bn, according to a Jupiter Research report. Western Europe as a whole will shell out £4.6bn -- up 46 percent on 2002.

Technology will be leading the way in online shopping, as consumers rush to snap up this year's must-have items, including iPods and other electronic goodies such as digital cameras.

Electronics are proving a popular online purchase, as e-tailers seek to get one over on their bricks and mortar equivalents by offering discounted prices as well as free delivery.

Another e-tail sector that could be having a very merry Christmas is online food shopping, according to the analyst house.

It's a theory borne out by the results of Sainsbury's online shopping venture, Sainsbury's to you. The supermarket has seen sales from its Web site increase by 35 percent over the past year and 500 percent over the past three years, which means the unit is on track to break even in 2004.

Online old favourites such as books, music, DVDs and gift tokens are expected to do well again this festive season. Shopping on the Web is expected to continue to grow for some years to come, as a large proportion of UK shoppers have yet to take their first tentative steps into online shopping, providing room for expansion.

But Christmas isn't entirely about what you get for the world of tech. A survey of mobile professionals by AvantGo showed that 53 percent of those questioned chose world peace as their ideal Christmas present.

The next most popular option, however, was a flatscreen TV, followed by digital cameras and smartphones.

The survey also showed PDAs will be getting a lot of loving over the holiday period, as 90 percent of owners said they use the devices to check up on gift lists when out shopping for pressies, as well as using their handhelds to check product reviews or use coupons delivered to the PDAs.

ZDNet UK's Munir Kotadia contributed to this report.