December sales 'to rise by 4%'
December sales are forecast to rise by 4% for Northern Ireland retailers compared with last year, a business advisory firm has said.
Online transactions are responsible for half the predicted market growth, while the number of click and collect sales is expected to almost double, according to Deloitte.
Dr Danny McConnell, technology partner at Deloitte, said: "This is great news for Northern Ireland retailers and further proof that harnessing digital technologies will continue to be the key to success and longevity."
A survey by Deloitte, which canvassed the opinion of consumers from across the UK, including Northern Ireland, shows that consumers are predicted to spend £42.4 billion nationally this Christmas, over £1.5 billion more than in 2013.
Online transactions will account for 13% of sales, which represents 50% of total market growth. The research further found that click and collect sales will almost double, accounting for £2.5 billion of online sales.
Dr McConnell added: "Our research found that 40% of physical shop sales will be digitally influenced this Christmas, meaning that customers will use some form of digital technology to inform or facilitate their purchase.
"This equates to £15 billion, which is almost three times the size of forecast online sales for December."
He said in this digital age, consumers demand instant access to information on products and services.
"They want to compare prices and increasingly pay and transact via digital devices.
"However, this surge in demand for click and collect services seems to suggest that while many are happy to purchase online, some still feel more comfortable collecting purchases at their convenience rather than relying on a delivery company.
"As click and collect continues to drive traffic to the high street, retailers have an opportunity to increase sales and create added value for their customers.
"It will be up to local retailers to capitalise on this opportunity by continuing to invest in in-store technologies such as mobile payments to facilitate faster, more convenient transactions and beacon technology to track shoppers in-store and deliver personalised messages and promotions, further boosting the digital influence on the physical environment."
He said just as physical retailers have benefited from the growth of click and collect, further investment in in-store technology will help local firms increase the number of shop visitors who purchase and how much they spend.