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9.8% of UK retail sales were online in March

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Almost one in every ten pounds spent in the UK last month was spent online, according to official figures out today.

The Office for National Statistics’ Retail Sales Index for March found that, by value, 9.8% of UK retail transactions were made over the internet, with an average of £529m spent online each week.

In total, £31bn was spent in the UK in March, an average of £6.2bn a week.

The ONS figures showed the seasonally adjusted value of retail sales rose by 4.5% in March, compared to the previous year, while the volume of sales was up by 1.5%.

But when measured on a non-seasonally adjusted scale, retail sales decreased by 0.1%, in volume. The biggest losers were household goods stores, which saw sales fall by 7.3%.

The non-store retailing sector, predominantly the internet, saw sales rise by 13.7% in value compared to last year and by 13.1% in volume.

Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium, said the picture was more positive than the BRC’s figures which showed a fall in the value of total sales. He warned that the figures for March could be revised down, as ONS figures for January and February have been.

Robertson said: “Even so, the ONS figures confirm a worrying downward trend for retail sales. Annual growth in sales values is a quarter of what it was in January and the worst since April last year.

“With DIY, clothing and even food sales suffering it’s clear customers are cutting back and extremely reluctant to spend, despite a mass of promotions and discounts.”

But he forecast that April’s figures would receive a fillip thanks to the Royal Wedding and to Easter. “That’s welcome,” said Robertson, “but won’t change the fundamentally weak conditions likely to undermine consumer confidence for some time yet.”

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