UK international online sales up 57% in 2020

UK cross-border e-commerce sales jumped 57 per cent year-on-year in 2020, according to research from UK online retail association IMRG and solutions provider Global-e.

The data is based on sales from a sample of over 270 UK retailers and brands trading internationally to over 200 countries on the Global-e platform.

Business grew substantially in the run up to the festive trading period, with a significant spike in cross-border sales starting much earlier in September and remaining strong across the final quarter of the year.

The traditional peak holiday trading period in November experienced a 42 per cent YoY surge in international cross-border online sales compared to the same time last year.

From September through to December, EU volumes exceeded non-EU figures, reaching a far more significant peak in the pre-holiday trading period.

“This not only suggests higher demand for UK products among EU citizens during the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events in 2020, but could have also been accelerated by consumers’ concerns around shopping from their favourite UK brands post-Brexit whilst a deal was still to be agreed,” said IMRG.

There was also a new shift towards using desktops over mobile devices as a preferred platform of choice for online cross-border purchasing, which was likely a result of more shoppers working from home during COVID lockdowns, IMRG said.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, said: “As with UK domestic sales, cross-border sales followed a very similar trend of a spring surge, followed by a gradual easing off over summer, then a huge spike over Black Friday.”

He said: “Initially the cross-border demand was being driven by non-EU markets, but that shifted over the peak Christmas trading period. With the Brexit deal now agreed, UK retailers are facing new challenges that might influence how and where they trade over the next few years.”

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