Christmas can be crunch time for many retailers, and fortunately it seems that last year's festive season was a case of make rather than break for those that operate online.
As figures released by the British Retail Consortium (BRC) have revealed, 18.6% of all non-food purchases were made on the web during December, with a 19.2% annual leap in total internet sales. This is record-breaking news for ecommerce, and also explains why businesses have been able to thrive by operating solely in the virtual space.
The news is promising, but there is a potential drawback: with online-only retailers booming, the logical conclusion is that the high street will continue to suffer.
However, if research conducted by Royal Mail is anything to go by then now certainly isn't the time to worry - indeed, the latest indicators are surprisingly positive.
One in six successful internet businesses are looking to expand into physical stores during 2014, while 40% plan to start trading from new channels in an effort to boost their sales
According to the results of Royal Mail's study, one in six successful internet businesses are looking to expand into physical stores during 2014, while 40% plan to start trading from new channels in an effort to boost their sales.
It's all about offering customers a diverse experience, fusing different methods of commerce and taking advantage of the range of options available.
With the research showing that the high street is the preferred destination for 16% of all online-only retailers, it seems new businesses have not been deterred by the struggles major chains have faced in brick and mortar locations over recent years.
The reason for this could be a trend highlighted by the BRC - namely that multichannel services proved increasingly popular over Christmas. Many retailers used tools such as click and collect to steal a march on their competitors, boosting their appeal among consumers.
The success of this approach could go some way to explaining why businesses are looking to expand beyond the online sphere, coupling their internet operations with physical stores in a similar way.
All in all the figures paint a positive picture for Britain's online SMEs, and if they follow up on their plans then the impact on the high street could be hugely beneficial.
Evidence that the situation is already improving was seen recently when Local Data Company figures revealed vacancy rates have now dropped to their lowest level since 2010, and with internet firms looking to make the transition circumstances could be set to get even better.
It would certainly mark a reversal of recent trends that have seen high streets suffer as a result of consumers' increasing willingness to shop online, but if web retailers are deciding to go the other way they could strike the perfect balance to help revitalise town centres.
Dan O’Sullivan is Make It Cheaper's Web Content Manager, which means much of his time is dedicated to ensuring we have plenty of online material to help business owners understand the energy, insurance and telecoms industries. With years of experience working alongside SMEs, Dan is committed to making life as easy as possible for smaller firms. You can email Dan at email@example.com
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