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UK Online Retail Sales Report summary

January 2024

Period covered: Period covered: 26 November - 30 December 2023

3 minute read


Note: This report summary is one or two months behind the current month as standard reporting practice. The content is indicative only and incomplete with certain data undisclosed. Become a member to access this data or take out a free 30 day membership trial now.


Online Retail sales

Online retail sales growth rose xx% YoY in December (value and non-seasonally adjusted), against a xx% decline a year ago – the weakest performance since xxxx xxxx.

Average weekly online sales totalled £xx, which is a slowdown on the previous month but the second-highest spend since the end of xxxx.

Weak annual comparatives, sales being pulled forward into November due to widespread discounting, and the transference of spend to sectors outside of retail, were just some of the key factors weighing on December’s performance:

Annual comparatives: A year ago, the postal strikes caused delivery disruptions and saw consumers shop more in store as they wanted to guarantee their purchases and retailers shortened their last delivery dates before Christmas.

Food and energy prices continued to rise while borrowing costs also stepped up. But with expectations of inflation being past its peak and consumers first restriction-free Christmas in three years, consumer confidence improved, albeit remaining deep in negative territory.

Demand pulled forward: This year, heavy discounting throughout November appears to have pulled demand forward at the expense of December sales.

This is highlighted by average weekly sales being higher in November than December, a continuing trend seen in the last few years.

The online penetration rate also slipped back in December to 27.6%, from 30.7% last month, although notably it was broadly in line with the rate in December 2022.

Spending outside of retail: Christmas is typically a time where gatherings with family and friends increase. This year was no exception with sales at pubs, bars and clubs rising by 7.9% YoY. Restaurants also reported their best performance since August, although spending remained in decline (-8.8%, Barclaycard).


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Online penetration eases

Source: ONS, Retail Economics Analysis

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  • Online market size estimates (£m)
  • Online spending forecasts (£m)
  • Online vs. Store analysis
  • Online sales growth by category (£m)
  • External data summaries: ONS, BRC, KPMG, BDO, IMRG-Capgemini
  • Online penetration rates by category and more...