The Christmas season is nearly upon us, which can only mean that many of us will be plucking up the courage to weave through the heaving crowds, gift list in hand, at shopping centres and high streets all over the country. The almost masochistic approach to showing how much we care for our loved ones by buying them that special something, is seen by many as being as much as part of the festive season as a turkey dinner.
Yet the cold winds that are set to batter the country with all sorts of complaint-laden wintery weather could be about to change.
The internet has transformed almost every facet of our everyday lives, and online shopping has become a very serious rival to many of our high streets.
Despite many families supposedly tightening their belts in response to the economic squeeze, online retailers do not appear to be worried, and with good reason.
Online retail revenues are set to reach record levels over the Christmas rush, with industry group IMRG and consultants Capgemini, predicting revenues to break through the £10 billion mark for the very first time.
Yet the figures do not necessarily mean that we will all be sitting down at our desks and logging on, as it seems that another emerging trend could be set to have an influence on the figures.
Our access to the internet is now almost 24/7, due to the rise of the smartphone and tablet device, both of which have become so popular that they are almost seen as being technological essentials.
A rising use among shoppers is therefore perhaps unsurprising, and the retailers that take advantage of this emergence of mobile devices look as though they could be the ones giving a jolly festive laugh all the way to the bank.
Department store John Lewis, which boasts online sales of £1 billion a year, is gearing up for a surge in mobile use this year.
Online director Mark Lewis said: “We expect this Christmas to be a tipping point, where the majority of our online sales come from mobile devices.”
It’s not just at John Lewis either, with many retailers finding that mobile sales have gained momentum due to the rising use of mobile smartphones and tablets.
Eight million tablets were sold in the UK last year, while a similar number is expected to be recorded this year for the Christmas period alone.
And the increased level of access that consumers have with online retailers has not only changed the way in which we approach our shopping before the Christmas period, but it could also change the way in which we approach those ever-popular January Sales, which despite the name, seem to start a soon as the Eastenders Christmas special is over.
On Christmas Day last year, John Lewis’s sale was already underway online, with half of the total traffic coming through its site coming from mobile devices. That figure is now expected to jump to two-thirds.
Over at Marks and Spencer, which around a quarter of its Christmas Day sales made through iPads alsone.
The new and increasingly affordable technology means that people are changing the hours in which they shop, with a growing number of customers making purchases between 6am and 8am.
Mr Lewis adds: “People use their phone as an alarm, then check their emails, follow a link, and are shopping before they even get out of bed.”