Fortnum & Mason’s online sales usurped its bricks-and-mortar operations for the first time in its history during the Christmas period.

The department store’s chief executive Ewan Venters revealed that its ecommerce sales rocketed on December 12, overtaking revenues raked in from stores that day.

It marked the first day in Fortnum’s 310-year history that digital purchases outstripped physical sales.

Venters revealed details of the milestone after Fortnum’s posted a 16% surge in like-for-like sales during the five weeks to January 1.

He told Retail Week: “In those five weeks, 34% of all of our business came through digital.

“We had one day, for the first time in our history, when we took more money online than we did in our bricks-and-mortar business.

“That was a moment of history for us, but it’s a fundamental point when your online business gets bigger than all of your bricks businesses put together.

“It’s a sign of the times, but in our case it also shows the strength of Piccadilly as the embodiment of the brand and its importance to having success online.

“As much as my satellite businesses in Heathrow, St Pancras, Dubai and my shop-in-shops in Lane Crawford are important in adding to the dynamic of the business, the experience within Piccadilly is of ongoing paramount importance.”

Venters hailed the “pretty impressive” performance of its flagship Piccadilly site during the festive season, when like-for-likes grew in “double-digit” territory.

But the Scot, who spent Forntum’s busiest day “personally replenishing the biscuit fixture at great pace”, said trading continued to be “phenomenal” this year.

Venters said: “In the week after the period we’ve referred to as Christmas, when domestic business was quiet, international business was phenomenal.

“We’ve never seen so many French, Italian and Spanish in the store. Their holiday runs through to the 12th night, so London was suddenly awash with Chinese, Japanese and Americans, then the Spanish, Italian and French in the period until January 8.

“So in that period after Christmas, we saw an extraordinary increase in business from international consumers who are enjoying the benefits of the currency.”