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Online the saviour of Christmas for UK retail

Total online sales rose by 12.1 per cent in December, year-on-year, as consumers opted for the convenience of online over visiting the high street. Average weekly online sales reached £1,149 million in December – a record high. Annual growth was down slightly on the previous month, when Black Friday supported growth, but the overall trend remained very strong. It is estimated that Store sales fell by -1.5 per cent, the sharpest decline since May 2009, excluding Easter distortions.

Chart 1

Source: ONS, Retail Economics analysis

Online accounted for 13.8 per cent of total retail spending in December, down on the 15.5 per cent achieved in November. The fastest growing sectors, according the ONS, were Household Goods and Non-Specialised Stores.

Chart 1

Source: ONS

The overall trading period for Christmas was very strong for online retail. A combination of unseasonably mild and record-breaking wet weather meant that consumers opted to stay at home and order online.

In addition, consumers were more confident that online deliveries would be received on time and the growing popularity of click-and-collect helped boost growth this Christmas. Anecdotal evidence suggests that consumers were able to leave online orders later and pick-up in-store right up until Christmas Eve.

The decline in Store sales of -1.5 per cent over December was driven by Clothing and Footwear stores which saw sales fall by -7.0 per cent while, despite the weather, Online sales rose by 10.3 per cent. Overall, Non-Food Store sales fell by -3.3 per cent in December while Online grew by 12.1 per cent. The shift on consumer spending from physical locations to online was more pronounced this Christmas than ever before. This is also supported by data from Springboard which estimated that footfall fell by -2.2 per cent in December. The high street index showed that footfall was down -4.0 per cent as more activity moved online.

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