Internet shopping finally came of age this Christmas, after retailers and industry experts reported a dramatic surge in the number of people prepared to shop at the click of a mouse.
Online spending is thought to have approached £20 billion in the UK in 2005, with an established high street chain such as Boots now generating more sales online than at its biggest store.
Retailers may have been divided over the quality of Christmas trading, but there has been little debate over recent days about the influence of the internet, whether the business is Amazon.com or Marks & Spencer.
While figures showed that high street sales crept forward at a rate of just 0.2 per cent in the final quarter of 2005, online sales rocketed by 45 per cent.
And new figures due from internet retail group IMRG are expected to show that 24 million people in the UK spent about £4.7 billion online in November and December as they preferred to shop at home rather than on the high street.
Early estimates suggest that total online sales in 2005 will reach £19.6 billion - up from £14.5 billion in 2004 and just £300 million in 1999.
IMRG forecasts sales will reach £24.6 billion this year as consumer confidence in the security of shopping online grows.
IMRG chief executive James Roper said: "Retailers have for years been in denial about this and claimed that it was just a modern form of catalogue shopping.
"For a century, catalogue shopping never exceeded five per cent of retail sales, but internet shopping is only five-years-old and it is already nine per cent."
Mr Roper said 2005 was a "very significant" year for online shopping.
"Many people thought online shopping was plateauing out when in February growth was around 13 per cent," he said.
"But it has accelerated throughout 2005 and by the end growth was around 50 per cent."
Major internet success stories in the UK include Amazon, which celebrated a record Christmas haul as it delivered as many as 480,000 gifts a day.
Boots.com saw sales surge by 40 per cent, while a record one million customers shopped at tesco.com in November and December.
And department store John Lewis banked sales of more than £100 million from its online and catalogue business in 2005, similar to the figures generated by some of its best performing shops.
HMV also saw a 78 per cent increase in sales on hmv.co.uk, but with the site representing such a small portion of its business, sales slumped in its music stores and Waterstone's bookshops as it struggled to compete with the unrelenting popularity of the likes of Amazon. HMV's smaller rival MVC was forced into administration in December.
Mr Roper said: "This has no sign of ending. Consumers are adopting it, computers are getting cheaper, broadband is becoming cheaper and the delivery industry is gearing up for it."