LONDON: Yesterday lunchtime was expected to be the UK's busiest high street shopping hour in the run-up to Christmas but rather than relax many consumers are preparing to go online during Christmas Day to hunt for bargains.

Financial services company Visa said its cardholders would collectively be spending £1m a minute during Tuesday's "golden hour". A predicted total spend of £1.3bn puts December 23 ahead of other more heralded days such as November's Black Friday. And for the week before Christmas, Visa forecast the number of transactions would be 7% up on the same period last year.

"Retailers' multi-channel approach should cause a surge in footfall from click-and-collect sales too, with the opportunity for further shopping in-store when consumers arrive," said Kevin Jenkins, managing director at Visa Europe

Christmas Eve looks likely to provide only a short rest before shoppers gird themselves for another shopping charge, this time online.

Credit card company Barclaycard reported that on Christmas Day itself, nearly all (99%) retailers expected traffic to their sites to be up, as shoppers looked for sale bargains. It said the peak time for online shopping would be between 8pm and 10pm.

"Shopping online on Christmas Day is now a normal part of UK consumers' holiday experiences every year," said Dominic Trigg, svp/managing director Europe, at adtech business Rocket Fuel.

He noted that spending on the day was forecast to increase 36% compared to 2013, taking it to an estimated £636m.

"It's clear that there is a real opportunity for online advertisers to reach an active audience," he stated. "It is the only date in the calendar where online retailers don't have to compete with their bricks-and-mortar cousins, meaning they can really push hard to generate large volumes of sales through clever online advertising strategies."

They have, he said, an "an unprecedented advantage in getting ahead of the post-Christmas shopping frenzy".

Data sourced from Guardian, Daily Mail, Barclaycard; additional content by Warc staff