Department stores have long been the go-to destination for Christmas shoppers, but they are lagging the giant on-line offerings.

A report out today by Ampersand has analysed data from 17 UK department stores to see how they measured up in the on-line stakes.

The joint overall winners were Argos and House of Fraser with the John Lewis Partnership slightly behind, followed closely by George at AsdaSelfridges and then Debenhams and Matalan.

Interestingly, none of the stores checked scored lower than the previous investigation in February this year and over two-thirds increased their score significantly.

The biggest factor that brought the top two together ahead of the pack was the facility for customers to obtain real-time stock figures allowing confident ordering for same or next day delivery plus the addition of same-day click & collect at Argos stores. The Argos business model of stock being held in the stockroom would naturally lend itself to the real-time stock availability, but for a classic department store like House of Fraser that is quite an achievement.

As non-dedicated on-line stores, their physical, multiple-outlet locations lend itself to them offering geolocation services to identify the nearest store to the customer which is an unnecessary requirement for pure-play online outlets that deliver only.

A notable omission from all department store outlets was the lack of a social media login-in facility which is all but standard on the pure-play sites. This factor alone can reduce check-out abandonment significantly by avoiding cumbersome form-filling and the reduction in check-out time which also carries the benefit of increased valuable CRM data.

In conclusion, department stores have a long way to go if they want to take on the likes of Amazon head on, but customers are still drawn to the lights and glamour of a beautifully decked Christmas store, and the ability to touch and feel the products is still a big draw over pure-play online sites.

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