The top 10 UK online destinations for shoppers in the run up to Christmas period has been revealed.

Amazon was the top UK online retailer in the last quarter of 2008, followed by Argos, Tesco, Play.com and Marks & Spencer.

According to figures from market watchers Nielsen Online, the top 10 online retailers during the 2008 Christmas shopping period averaged a 37 per cent increase in unique visitors compared to the 2007 Christmas shopping period.

Amazon, averaging 15.6 million unique Britons each month in Q4 (ranked #1), and Play.com averaging 5.7 million (ranked #4), were the only pure online players in the top 10, all the others are high street retailers.

Among the most popular retailers online Littlewoods (+66 per cent), Asda (+53 per cent) and Marks & Spencer (+46 per cent) had the largest year-on-year growth.

Most Popular UK Online Retailers: Q4 2008 (October-December)

1. Amazon 2. Argos 3. Tesco 4. Play.com 5. Marks & Spencer 6. Littlewoods 7. Currys 8. ASDA 9. John Lewis 10. Next

Alex Burmaster, Communications Director at Nielsen Online said: "The fact that the leading retailers online managed to attract over a third more visitors than they did for Christmas 2007 meant online retail provided some very bright news amidst the overall gloomy economic picture at the end of 2008.

"It's not that online retail will be impervious to the tighter financial environment but it has an opportunity to weather the storm better than other elements of the economy, particularly if retailers promote the web as the best way of finding cheaper goods in the most efficient and convenient way possible."

The five major retail-focused sectors online averaged a 19 per cent increase in unique visitors during the 2008 Christmas shopping period compared to the 2007 period.

The biggest retail sector, dubbed by Nielsen Mass Merchandisers, which includes retailers such as Amazon, Argos and Tesco, increased unique visitor numbers by 15 per cent in the 2008 Christmas period compared to the 2007 period.

Multi-Category Home & Fashion (which includes sites such as Marks & Spencer, Boots and Next had the largest year-on-year growth (+30 per cent).

Burmaster said: "Across the board, the online retail sectors have done well, all attracting more visitors in the 2008 Christmas shopping period than they did in 2007.

The ‘Multi-Category Home and Fashion' sector - which includes sites that sell various home & fashion goods including strong growth retailers such as Laura Ashley, BHS and T.K. Maxx - has done particularly well, growing at around five times the rate of overall Internet growth.

"Again, this is encouraging for the retail sector in 2009 as people aren't coming online just for small-ticket, everyday items like CD's and groceries but are increasingly looking to buy all manner of items from clothes for all the family to furniture across the entire house."

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