LONDON: UK consumers have taken to online shopping in a big way, spending more than £100 billion ($197bn; €146bn) since the concept of buying across the ether became a reality around twelve years ago.

A report from the Interactive Media in Retail Group claims the milestone was reached in April when shoppers clicked their way to £3.47bn worth of purchases, a 55% rise on April 2006.

According to the IMRG, travel is still the biggest online sector, accounting for around £7bn spent in the UK last year, followed by electronic products.

Clothing retailers have also seen a boom in online sales, in tandem with their US counterparts. The latter reported earlier this week that last year, for the first time, American cyber-shoppers spent more on apparel and accessories than on computers.

The IMRG study says British shoppers have progressed from CDs and books to bigger, pricier goods such as furniture and kitchen appliances.

The key to the boom has been the rapid expansion of broadband. Around half of UK adults are estimated to have home high-speed web access.

The IMRG expects online sales to rise to £42bn this year, a 39% increase over 2006, and likely to hit £78bn (20% of all retail sales) by 2010.

The increase in remote consumption is focusing the minds of traditional retailers. A few, such as electrical goods giant Dixons have abandoned shopping centres in favour of web-only sales. Others, like Tesco and Marks & Spencer are running high street and online stores in tandem.

Says IMRG ceo, James Roper: "It is too early to say which model will be dominant on the internet. Retail-ers are barely beginning to scratch the surface yet."

Data sourced from Financial Times online; additional content by WARC staff