European online retail sales will break all records this Christmas, totaling €7.6 billion — up 86 percent over last year, according to a new brief by Forrester Research B.V. (Nasdaq: FORR). For the first time ever, UK Net sales will break the £1 billion-per-month barrier in December 2002. Furthermore, Net-influenced sales will rise to €20 billion across all of Europe and will contribute €5 billion in Germany alone. By contrast, Forrester forecasts that in the United States, online retail sales during the holiday season will reach $9.5 billion, or €9.4 billion.

“Last Christmas, Europeans spent more than €4 billion online, but as more consumers spend more online, European online Christmas purchases will rise to €7.6 billion, almost double last year’s total,” said Forrester Research Director, Jaap Favier. “Significantly, this is the year that the UK will pass the magic £1 billion-per-month mark. The almost 15 million UK consumers that shop online will spend €2.6 billion via the Web this season; of this, €1.7 billion will be spent in December alone — that’s almost £1.1 billion in one month. Also, this year marks the European Net’s true maturity as a retail channel, as it will only lag the US by a paltry $1.8 billion.”

Germany beats the UK in the number of online shoppers — 18 million — but as the Germans spend 30 percent less online, their total Net turnover won’t exceed €2.2 billion for the whole festive season. Instead of buying online, many Germans prefer to research goods online and buy in-store, which will drive more than €5 billion of Net-influenced purchases this Christmas. The reasons for Germany’s relatively low online sales compared with the UK’s are simple — only 36 percent of Germans own a credit card, compared with 67 percent in the UK, and, on average, they feel less secure about sharing personal information online, which is necessary for online payment and fulfillment.

“In total, the percentage of European adults who buy online rose from 14 percent in 2001 to 19 percent in 2002,” Favier added. “Also, the total yearly sum spent by the average Net buyer rose by 40 percent from €374 to €527. Equally, a third more consumers research products online this year than in 2001, and the number of Europeans using the Web to research goods but then buying them in a store rose in 2002 by 33 percent to 41 million.”