It may be the 21st century, but shoppers are still heading for the high street and leaving the cosy world of online shopping behind, except for a few items.

According to Deloitte & Touche's annual Christmas retail survey, the year 2000 is not going to be an Internet Christmas. Only one in four consumers expect to use the Internet in their Christmas spending plans, say the chartered accountants and management consultants.

But there is good news for down-at-heel high street stores. Contrary to previous predictions, the high street appears to be winning consumers back from supermarkets and discounters. This year, 79 per cent of consumers expect to use the high street to purchase all their gifts, up 7 per cent from last year.

The Internet is not perceived as a great threat by retailers. Although the majority now offer websites - 85 per cent compared to 43 per cent in 1999 - only 28 per cent expect Internet shopping to have a major impact on Christmas sales.

Of the consumers surveyed, 11 per cent will use the Internet to make purchases with an additional 15 per cent using it as a research tool.

Retail analyst, Hayley Myers, from Retail Intelligence, predicts that the Internet will be important for gifts such as books, music, video games, DVDs, drinks and toys. And she says this Christmas will be the real test for retailers and urges those offering an Internet service to get it right.

She said: "The reason why people buy over the Internet is for the service. It is not always cheaper to buy in this way, but what consumers are getting is delivery. Consumers must have the confidence that the retailer will deliver the exact product they have ordered and especially crucial for Christmas, on time.

"There is no point consumers ordering a product and being promised delivery before Christmas if it turns up late. Retailers must fulfil their promise."

Other key findings of the survey were:

  • Men will spend more than women on gifts (£304.39 compared to £259.90);
  • Women are more generous in the number of presents they buy (20 per cent said they would buy five or more for their loved one compared with 14 per cent men);
  • Men leave their shopping later - 15 per cent wait until the last week, compared with five per cent of women;
  • The 35 - 44 age bracket spend the most on gifts (£356) - the over 65s spend the least (£204.57).
By Deborah Bowyer