Whether it is customers buying Humble Pie by celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay from Amazon, or one of the 42,000 cars for sale on Ebay’s UK website, or mince pies from Tesco, online retailing this year is expected to rack up sales of £10.3 billion, excluding services such as travel and finance.

“We are planning for very strong and sustainable expansion,” said Brian McBride, Amazon UK’s managing director.

However, fast growth produces growing pains — and online retailers are experiencing several, including concern about after-sales service, a high rate of product return, and pressure to make websites a more exciting experience for consumers.

These issues, unless resolved, could cap the market share of internet retailing at about 10%, according to analysts.

Nick Gladding at Verdict Research said: “By 2010, we might start to see online retailing growth slowing down. By that time, it should be up to about 7% of total retail sales, compared with just 3.1% this year.”

Nick Bubb, analyst at Evolution, thinks it is right to be a little sceptical: “Online is just another channel to market, albeit a pretty big one and one that is having a lot of impact in some product areas.”

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