So it's bricks versus clicks for yet another year. Yes, the annual tussle between the likes of Amazon and play.com against high street giants such as HMV and Waterstones is now in full swing. And it's only going to accelerate as December plods on.
But which is really cheaper for Christmas shopping: online stores or high street shops?
Supermarket Sweep - Tips & Advice
Well, I took to the streets and noted down the prices of several popular DVDs, CDs, books, video games, electrical and beauty products that were adorning the shelves for this festive season and then compared them to the best possible deals I could find online.
The full results of my survey are logged in a table on this article, but here's a round-up of some of the best bargains...
Everyone needs a good post-Turkey DVD to drift off to on Christmas afternoon.
I found you can get value for money on the high-street with bundle deals like two DVDs for £20. However, online shops are still undercutting stores like HMV, offering most new releases for less than a tenner.
Here are some of the best deals:
The biggest bargains can be found on new releases. Prometheus can be bought on the high street for £15 but you can save a lot online at Sainsbury's Entertainment which has the same DVD for just £9.99. That's a saving of £5.01.
Box sets can also be found cheaper online. Using my list I found that you can get up to 28% off the price on the high street across new releases like the Dark Knight Trilogy box set and even on old favourites like The Wire.
In fact the only time I was unable to find a saving was for older titles like The Thing – it was available for £3 on the high street and at Asda Direct. But that shouldn't stop you double checking.
Top tip: Sites like Amazon and play.com also offer top deals on pre-order discs. For example the Total Recall
DVD – which is not released until Boxing Day – is only £9.99 on Amazon. What's more it comes with a price guarantee so if the price decreases or increases before the release date you will be charged the lowest price.
Digital downloads may be dominating music sales nowadays, but for me, CDs are still a fundamental part of Christmas.
Here are some of the best deals on the latest releases:
You can snap up most new releases on the high street for around a tenner. Pretty reasonable; however online stores are still cheaper, winning on price for every album I looked at in the survey.
Alicia Key's latest album is just £5.99 on play.com while Pink's return is just £7 on Amazon. Amazon delivers the biggest saving of 46.2% on Pink's album but the survey showed there are a variety of other places like Sainsbury's Entertainment that can offer good value too.
Top tip: If you are buying for a download addict, it might be worth getting hold of an iTunes
voucher instead of a CD. That way they can choose exactly what they want! A further alternative is purchasing a subscription to the online music streaming service Spotify
. These start at £9.99 for one month and stretch up to £119.88 for a full year.
There are some good book deals to be had on the high street, with Waterstones chopping the price of most chart titles this festive season. However, once again online shops still win hands down when it comes to delivering significant savings:
Five out of the ten books I looked at in my survey were over 50% cheaper online. The rest were at least 28% cheaper. Amazon was the best place to head but surprising savings could be found at Asda Direct and Sainsbury's Entertainment.
Top tip: Sales of Kindle e-books now outstrip regular printed sales. So if you're fed up of lugging around weighty novels it may be time to go digital: Kindle prices start at £69.
Frugal deals on the high street for video games were few and far between, with new games on the Wii U costing as much as £44.99.
Thankfully, online prices were around 25% lower:
Shop To really came up trumps for new release video games, offering the latest titles for under £40.
Top tip: If you're after an even bigger bargain keep your eyes peeled for pre-owned games. They're available online through sites like Game
and can be half the price of new discs.
The savings on electrical goods are slimmer than the games, CDs, DVDs and books we have already looked at and in some cases I wasn't able to find a better online price. But there are a few deals to be had if you are prepared to shop around.
Just remember to thoroughly check all of the return conditions and guarantees before you cough up the cash. Oh, and make sure you have a good stock of batteries ready for Christmas Day!
You can make a 13% saving on an Apple MacBook online at a UK company called Churchill Conrad, which will leave you £249 better off. Savings on Apple goods are usually quite hard to find so if you can get a cheaper price online take advantage.
Top tip: Look out for overseas sites selling cut-price electrical gear. Ordering cheap items from abroad is a good way of saving a few pounds. But when it comes to pricey electrical goods, I'd rather have the peace of mind of dealing with a domestic company.
Beauty products may not be an obvious choice for online shopping, but there are still bargains to be had...
Buying beauty products online makes much more sense than sticking to the high street according to my results. The portable Babyliss Hair Straighteners were over 50% cheaper online. Pricey beauty buys like the hair reduction system was already reduced in-store by £100 but can still be found £74 cheaper at Amazon.
Top tip: Online beauty shops are great if you know which particular aftershave, perfume or make up you're after. But even if you don't, there's nothing stopping you sussing out your favourites scent on the high street and then buying online for less.
And one final point: remember to check the last posting dates
before you place any orders. Most sites have a final date around 15th-20th December. However if you order at the last minute, you may have to shell out a touch more to guarantee you get your gift in time for the big day.
All prices are correct as of 12 December 2012.
Mothercare has long been battling tough highstreet conditions and continues to struggle against competition from rival Kiddicare as well as supermarkets and websites. In an attempt to boost profits, the baby products retailer recently launched a new-look 30,000 square foot store in north London, including an area to test buggies and prams plus a Costa Coffee.</p>
Despite recruiting famous yummy mummy, Mylene Class, to front the opening, and launching Jools Oliver's Little Bird collection in stores last week, City pundits warn it could be a case of too little too late.</p>
- Clinton Cards
The greetings cards specialist became the latest highstreet casualty in May with 8,000 jobs on the line when it was forced it into administration. Its biggest supplier, American Greetings, then bought Clintons out of administration and put the retailer through a rebrand including a new logo and complete in-store revamps.</p>
Its contemporary format includes new fixtures and fittings and easier to navigate stores, and will be rolled out to all 400 UK stores at the cost of £16million. Bosses aim to bring the brand back to profit within two years.</p>
- Thomas Cook
Battling high debt levels and a downturn in the global travel sector, Thomas Cook was brought back from the brink by a £1.4bn refinancing packaging in May, giving it a further three years to repay its debts. Soon after, the firm recruited new chief executive Harriet Green, who faces the task of reviving the travel company which last year issued three profit warnings and was forced to take an emergency £200m loan.</p>
The troubled tour operator hit difficulty in 2011 when the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa affected its operations in Egypt and Tunisia. The position worsened due to a fall in overall bookings by cash-strapped UK consumers, as well as the company's high debt levels.</p>
- La Senza
Poor sales in the run up to Christmas was the final nail in the coffin for several struggling chains, including lingerie retailer La Senza, which went bust in January 2012 with 146 shops and 2,600 staff. Kuwaiti retailer Alshaya bought part of the business, which saved 60 shops and 1,000 staff.</p>
La Senza has been struggling in a similar way to other specialist shops such as Game and Mothercare, which have been hit by cut-price competition at supermarkets and have no alternative products to help shoulder losses.</p>
- Blacks Leisure
Stricken retailer Blacks Leisure, which employed 3,600 staff across 98 Blacks stores and 208 Millets stores, went into administration in Janurary 2012 after failing to find an outright buyer.</p>
Soon after its stores were bought by sportswear firm JD Sports in pre-pack deal - an insolvency procedure which sees a company being sold immediately after it has entered administration – which saw most of Blacks' £36 million of debt wiped out.</p>
Fashion chain Bonmarche, which was part of the Peacock Group, was sold in January when the group collapsed due to unsustainable debts, resulting in 1,400 job losses and 160 store closures. Private equity firm Sun European Partners bought 230 stores, which continue to trade with 2,400 staff.</p>
Administrators sounded the death knell for Woolworths in December 2008, leading to store closures that left 27,000 people out of work. Since its collapse former Woolworths stores have become a blight in many town centres and more than 100 of the large stores still lay vacant in January 2012.</p>
Loyal customers didn't have go without the family favourite store for long however as it reappeared online as Woolworths.co.uk in 2009, after Shop Direct Home Shopping bought out the Woolworths name.</p>
Peacocks collapsed under a £740 million net debt mountain in January 2012 in the biggest retail failure since Woolworths. Despite being sold out of administration to Edinburgh Woollen Mill in a deal that saved 380 stores and 6,000 jobs, administrators from KPMG were forced to close 224 stores with immediate effect. This lead to 3,350 redundancies from stores and Peacocks head office in Cardiff.</p>
The high street name continues trading as bosses work to stabilise the situation, yet a further blow was dealt this month with news that the firm's pension fund is in £15.8 million shortfall as a result of the collapse.</p>
Game buckled under its £85m debt pile in March 2012 and was placed into administration after being unable to pay a £21m rent bill. Administrator PwC immediately closed 277 shops, with the loss of 2,000 jobs. Soon after, investment firm, OpCapita bought 333 Game stores, saving more than 3,000 jobs.</p>
Game's demise followed a string of profit warnings and the failure of nervous suppliers, including leading names Electronic Arts and Nintendo, to go on providing the latest games, further damaging poor sales.</p>