Online sales grew by 10% in October, according to official figures. About 16.9% of all retail spending took place via the internet, according to the Office for National Statistics’ Retail Sales report for the month.
Across all retail, shoppers spent 2.8% more to buy 0.3% less than a year ago, as average shop prices increased by 3.1% compared to last year. The largest price increases, at 3.5%, came in food stores.
Retail sales were up by 0.3% compared to last month, both in terms of the amount spent and the quantity bought. The trend shown by comparing the most recent three months to the previous three months saw shoppers spend 1.5% more to buy 0.9% more goods.
Kate Davies, ONS senior statistician, said: “We are continuing to see an underlying picture of steady growth in retail sales, although this October suffered in comparison with a very strong October in 2016.”
Online, department stores saw the fastest growth in online sales. They grew by 19.2%, compared to the same time last year, and accounted for 15.5% of all sales in the category. Textile, clothing and footwear stores saw online sales grow by 17.9% to account for 15.9% of all sales. Ecommerce growth was slower at household goods stores, where sales grew by 2.7% and accounted for 10.8% of all sales. Online food sales grew by 9%, accounting for 5.4% of all sales in the category.
Commenting on the figures, Richard Lim, chief executive at analyst Retail Economics, said: ““A painful deceleration in retail sales growth shows all is not well in the retail sector. Inflation has outpaced average earnings growth for a number of months and it is evident from this latest data that it is beginning to take its toll.
“We expect inflation is nearing its peak and so the pinch on personal finances is at its most intense. Consumers are tightening their belts and these feeble results are likely to set the tone in the run-up to Christmas.”
Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said the high street was already responding as shoppers tightened their belts. “Black Friday sales have begun and retailers will be hopeful they have the products and promotions in their armoury to get shoppers spending again and keep them buying all the way through to Christmas,” he said.
ParcelCompare’s head of consumer research David Jinks said: “We really do seem to be living in an episode of Stranger Things, with a real world showing online sales booming and a upside down world showing increasingly scary results for High Street stores. A combined ‘brick and click’ approach, particularly for departments stores, is urgently needed to ensure online sales don’t entirely cannibalise store sales and lead to many more High Street closures.”