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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's retailers can expect a big uplift in online Christmas shopping to help lift overall spending by 1.4 billion pounds this December, according to research published on Monday, with an increasing emphasis on flexible delivery.
Research by Deloitte forecasts that December's online sales will rise 19 percent to 5 billion pounds as total spending increases 3.5 percent to 40.3 billion pounds.
With retailers' estimated 20,000 click-and-collect points and online delivery services set to be heavily tested, Deloitte's head of UK retail Ian Geddes said that flexible delivery could be "this year's battlefield".
"The consumer will be challenging retailers' ability to deliver a sofa at home in a specified time slot; transfer a party dress to their local store for same-day collection and drop off their Christmas DVDs at a convenient locker," he added.
Deloitte cited rising consumer confidence and improving economic conditions as reasons for the expected increase in the overall spend by British shoppers.
Government data indicate that the outlook is improving for consumer spending, which generates about two thirds of gross domestic product, but retailers are still wary as wages fail to keep pace with inflation.
In October, market research specialist Verdict forecast spending in the fourth quarter of 2013 would rise 2.2 percent from the same period in 2012 to 88.4 billion pounds - the biggest increase since 2007.
Reporting by Neil Maidment; Editing by David Goodman