UK high-street retailers are looking forward to a gloomy Christmas, as shoppers this season turn to the 'Net for their needs.

An astonishing 89 per cent of UK shoppers plan to buy online this Christmas, with 44 per cent scouting for bargains on eBay. Just 11 per cent of shoppers plan to explore the high street, with one in four preferring online shopping at home to a bruising experience on crowded high streets.

The findings come in the SciVisum Christmas eCommerce Study 2005, conducted over four weeks in October by Web-testing specialist SciVisum.

Amazon was the most popular choice for bargain hunters, with 70 per cent using that service. A quarter said they would shop at CD Wow, 18 per cent on, 11 per cent at and 12 per cent on ebuyer.

Consumers will also explore the online versions of high-street stores. A quarter of respondents said they would look for online bargains with Argos online, and 17 per cent at Tesco online.

"The High Street will be looking for Christmas to make up the numbers, but for many bargain hunters, it simply won't get a look in," said Deri Jones, CEO, SciVisum.

The number of Internet shoppers is expected to shoot up by 12 per cent during the Christmas period alone with the biggest number of users logging on to buy presents in the first week of December. During that week one in every seven Internet visits will be to e-tailers," he predicted.

However, online shops need to deliver good service: 95 per cent of shoppers will abandon sites if performance is poor.

The number one reason for abandoning a website was sluggish performance, (78 per cent). Three quarters (76 per cent) said they would not wait more than a minute for a page to respond before abandoning a site. 74 per cent of customers will also reject complex registration processes.

The findings stem from surveys with a cross-section of 250 consumers at mainland stations in the UK over four weeks in October.