Ecommerce channels and retailers are emerging as the big winners as a number of UK retailers reveal Christmas takings helped avoid end-of-year blues.

The Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) said online sales surged last week in time for the sales following an increase of 50% in ecommerce activity in the weeks before Christmas.

In contrast, High Street retail tracker FootFall said shopper number in stores was down 6.8% in the week after Christmas, after retailers reported a busy pre-festive rush during previous weeks.

Premium-brand supermarkets led the way in the online charge, with Tesco forecasting a “good” Christmas as a result of 1.3 million website visitors during the holidays and John Lewis Partnership’s Waitrose chain seeing sales last week rise to £89 million. Electrical retailers including DSG International’s Dixons and Currys are also expected to post positive first results from their forays online.

Next also said in a trading statement today its indirect sales arm, Next Directory had helped grow sales during the last half of 2006 (up to 24 December) by 2.6% compared to the same period last year. While retail sales were up 0.8% overall, but Directory sales rose 9.3%.

Another internet tracker, Hitwise said music downloads, which had fallen off during the latter half of 2006 peaked by 50% from Christmas Day, as traffic to Apple’s iTunes site jumped 413% on the day itself compared with last year.

But continuing High Street woes, the privately-owned entertainment retailer Music Zone filed for administration Wednesday, while the industry waits to see if Woolworths and HMV managed to turn around their fortunes enough over the period to avoid the profit warnings issued last month coming to fruition.