October online sales up in sluggish retail market

Online sales accounted for 19.2 per cent of all retailing in October, with consumers now spending more online than ever before, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The data showed that online shopping as a proportion of all retail sales was up 0.2 per cent compared to September, with the proportion of online spending increasing threefold between 2008 (4.9 per cent) and 2018 (17.9 per cent).

Internet sales increased by 8.8 per cent for the amount spent in October 2019 when compared with October 2018, with all online retail sectors reporting growth except the ‘other stores’ category.

The monthly picture of pure online sales data showed growth in the amount spent online at 0.8 per cent, with strong growth of six per cent reported in household goods. However, there were falls in online sales growth in the food and clothing sectors.

The boost for the UK’s e-commerce industry came against a background of disappointing data for the retail sector as a whole, which saw overall sales for the three months to October grow at the weakest pace in a year-and-a-half, as consumers reigned in spending amid rising costs and prolonged Brexit uncertainty.

Third quarter figures showed that retailed sales increased by 0.2 per cent compared to the previous three months, marking the lowest increase since April 2018.

Food stores were the only main sector to see growth (0.8 per cent) in the three months to October, while on a year-on-year basis, the quantity of goods bought was up 3.1 per cent compared to October 2018, coming in below industry estimates. The year-on-year-analysis showed growth across all sectors except household goods stores.

The quantity bought in October 2019 fell by 0.1 per cent when compared with the previous month, with only fuel and department stores reporting growth.

Non-store retailing provided the largest contribution to the year-on-year growth, according to the figures, with the amount spent and quantity bought both at 1.4 percentage points.

Commenting on the figures Simon Brennan, vice president at Engage Hub, said: “Today’s ONS statistics once again show an increase in online shopping, a trend that is continuing to redefine the retail landscape, add to this fragile consumer confidence and rising costs, Britain’s shops have been left vacant.

“To stay competitive, retailers need to understand the underlying currents of this shift towards e-commerce, to subsequently understand the changing needs and demands of the customer.”

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