Online Christmas shopping exceeded all expectations, with sales soaring close to a billion pounds a week during each of the first three weeks in December, the IMRG Index confirmed.

A massive £7.66 billion was spent online by British consumers in the ten-week run-up to Christmas (between 16 October and 24 December), which is 54% more than the £5bn spent online during the same period in 2005.

The ecommerce industry body also said online sales for the whole of 2006 were worth £30.2bn, slightly higher than its forecast of £30 billion.

Jo Evans, IMRG managing director said: "Websites struggled to cope with the soaring traffic levels, stocks sold out early, and delivery companies were at full stretch dispatching the 200 million parcels ordered. Sales demand outstripped supply capacity by a significant margin, otherwise sales would have been higher still."

Many High Street retailers including John Lewis, Tesco, Next and Sainsbury’s have recently reported trading results for the period buoyed by strong online shopping sales.