Distribution centre for online retailer Amazon

IRISH consumers are the 10th biggest online spenders in the world, according to new research.

Following a breakdown of four years of buyer-behaviour statistics, experts now predict that the busiest day for online shopping will fall on the first Sunday of December – just five weeks away and 18 days before Christmas.

The last Sunday in November has proven to be the second most popular date for online shopping sprees, giving Christmas presents an extra week to be delivered.

The research was conducted by onlineadvertising.ie, based on Google records, which show that Irish consumers are becoming increasingly sophisticated when it comes to using the internet for Christmas shopping.

"Ireland is currently ranked 10th in the world [on a per capita basis] when it comes to buying online," said director Alan Coleman.

"And 50% of Irish consumers now research their item on line before they purchase," he added.

The rise of internet shopping has long been a bone of contention with traditional retailers but the latest figures show it is an increasing trend.

"From search-engine data we can see that consumers start researching Christmas gifts online in late October and the searching peaks in the week between 11 and 18 December," said Coleman.

According to research carried out by financial consultants Deloitte, some 27% of consumers plan to buy their Christmas presents online.

Twice that, at 54%, will at least research their intended gifts online before making the purchase in traditional shops, while just 20% of shoppers won't use the internet at all.

And the rate of use is growing. According to Eurostat, which carries out statistical analysis of EU member states, Ireland has shown one of the fastest growth rates in online purchasing behaviour.

It found that in 2008, some 36% of Irish people shopped online compared to just 14% in 2004.

"In general [Ireland] scores higher than average for buying travel and accommodation online but we lag behind our European neighbours when it comes to buying clothes, household goods, books and magazines and even electronic gadgets," the report said.