Christmas shoppers were predicted to spend a staggering £7billion via the Internet this year, but how will this affect gunshops? ST asked a number of retailers just how much business they manage to catch using the World Wide Web.

Bushwear is a shooting and outdoor equipment specialist that has a small showroom but sells the vast majority of its products via a yearly catalogue and its website (www.bushwear.co.uk). Earlier this month a spokesman for Bushwear told ST: ?We had a fantastic year last year. This year we had a broader circulation of the new catalogue and are now selling so much kit on the website we can barely keep up. Internet sales have increased more than 200 per cent this year and there is still some time to go before Christmas ? that kind of increase speaks for itself. People are more confident about buying things over the Internet; it is no longer a novelty and with a well-constructed and secure site people can be absolutely sure of what they are buying.?

Litts of Newport has only had its website (www.litts.co.uk) up and running for two months, but director Andrew Litt says the company has been overwhelmed by the business it has generated. ?It?s been very good for us,? he said. ?November was our first month and it exceeded all our expectations. We haven?t got everything on the site yet and it has been technically difficult, but we are getting there. It?s a great way for people to view a large amount of stock quickly and to find exactly what they want from the comfort of their own home. People don?t tend to be buying simply the cheaper stocking filler-type items you would expect at this time of year; stock is being bought across the board ? it?s a very good mix of items and prices.?

Retailers cannot sell guns over the Internet, but David Thompson, shop manager at York Guns, uses the company?s website (www.yorkguns.co.uk) as a vital sales tool. He told ST: ?The Internet has enabled us to show off our stock. Though it?s hard to keep it up-to-date, it is a very convenient way of doing it. With the technology available to customers, such as Broadband and digital photography, people hundreds of miles away can view exactly what we have without having to come all the way to the shop. It?s made the sale process so easy. We have had new and used rifles, guns and optics on the site for a long time, and most of the guns have pictures against them. Customers can see exactly what they are buying, then can either email us or pick up the telephone and go from there. For the big ticket items we find people actually watch the site for the guns they want and that the more desirable goods go very quickly.?