Britons' enthusiastic adoption of online shopping is to trigger an investigation by the government's Treasury department, reports the London Daily Telegraph.

Royal Mail, the UK postal operator and a major beneficiary of the rise and rise of online shopping, has good reason to talk up cyber-shopping. But its finger is on the pulse of the online boom and its forecasts cannot be disregarded.

According to a RM spokesman, internet shopping over the run-up to Christmas will hit £5 billion ($8.6bn; €7.29bn) ... "a forty per cent increase on the same period in 2004."

Accounting firm Deloitte is of like mind, estimating that British online retailers will despatch around seventy million packages over the festive season. The surge will be at the expense of traditional high street retailers - which are likely to feel the pain of a 2.8% (£400m) drop in sales, according to the beancounter.

For 2005 as a whole, the Interactive Media in Retail Group estimates that 24 million shoppers will spend more than £20bn online.

This figure is given credence by the Treasury, which comments: "Clearly, internet retailing has been increasing in recent months. As part of the Treasury's preparations for the Pre-Budget Report we are, of course, looking at this increase as well as other aspects of consumption."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff