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Online sales are set to forge ahead of spending in physical stores for the first time this Christmas, according to the latest data from home delivery specialist ParcelHero.

UK consumers spent over £78bn on Christmas presents and food last year. But ParcelHero said that although the same amount would be spent again this year, a far bigger slice of the Christmas budget will be online.

"All this means home delivery and courier services will be stretched to the maximum this holiday," said ParcelHero head of consumer research, David Jinks.

"With Amazon and Tesco promising free grocery deliveries for Christmas for shoppers in their membership schemes, we’re also expecting food deliveries to soar over the festive period. As even Marks & Spencer launches full-scale food deliveries thanks to its new Ocado tie-in, you could say it’s not just an online Christmas revolution, it’s an M&S online Christmas revolution this year."

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Research shows 15% of UK firms have already created roles to cater for an increase in online demand, with some companies switching to more localised logistics providers as they prepare for an uplift in orders.

ParcelHero has urged operators to work closely with retail partners to avoid a driver shortage and strained supply chains or face Christmas chaos similar to that seen during Black Friday in 2014 when hundereds of thousands of deliveries were delayed.

"Last Christmas, we spent £25.43bn online and £53.15bn in stores. This year, our research shows the situation will be reversed and we’ll spend more online than offline in the first truly digital Christmas.

"We don’t think it’s likely we’ll see a massively increased overall spend this Christmas, as people are concerned for their jobs because of the impact of Covid and Brexit, which looms just seven days later. So, assuming Brits spend roughly the same as last year, that means in-store shopping will correspondingly drop considerably to £39.17bn."