UK web users have ditched online shopping in favour of Facebook and MySpace, says Hitwise.

According to the web traffic analyst, in March this year online retail sites accounted for 8.6 percent of all web visits compared to the 9.8 percent going to to social networking sites.

Hitwise says that during the same period last year, the figures were reversed. Nearly 10 percent of all UK internet visits were to online retail sites while 8.2 percent were to social networks.

"The growth of social networking, online video and the continuing popularity of news websites has meant that an increasing proportion of consumer's online time in the UK has been devoted to online media," said Robin Goad, Hitwise's director of research.

"Historically this has gone hand in hand with the growth of online retail, but over the last three months online retailers seem to be really suffering from the economic downturn for the first time," he added.

"Traffic to online retailers always peaks over the Christmas period, then declines during January and February, but picks up in March. Last year UK internet traffic to online retailers increased by 0.8 percent between February and March, but this year it fell by 0.1 percent. The decline between December and February was also greater this year."

Hitwise also said the amount of traffic that online retailers receive from sponsored or paid for links on search engines such as Google and Yahoo, had fallen. In March 2009 just 22.5 percent of traffic came from paid for links, compared to 27.8 percent in March 2008.