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Black Friday effect felt as ecommerce grows more slowly in December: BRC

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Ecommerce grew more slowly than expected in December as Black Friday fever encouraged many to do their Christmas shopping the previous month – and discouraged others from buying gifts online, a new study suggests.

The BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor for December 2014 found that non-food online sales grew by 7% in December, and accounted for 17% of all sales during the month.

That contrasts with December 2013, when online sales grew by 19.2%. It’s also down compared to the previous month, November 2014, when ecommerce grew by 12% and claimed 21% of all sales during the month, according to the BRC. That was the biggest share of the market yet recorded for internet retailing.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , said the delivery fallout from the Black Friday peak had hit confidence.

“The parcels backlogs caused by the aftermath of Black Friday forced some retailers to renege on their delivery guarantees and this impacted shoppers’ confidence to buy gifts online in December,” he said.

“Having hit the internet hard in November, as Christmas neared closer some consumers chose to shop in store to make sure they had their gifts in their hand and not in the mail.”

But, he said, online sales had been strong this Christmas, notwithstanding.

“Even against this challenging backdrop, nearly one in five gifts were still bought online and there is still growth to come from this channel. The main factor constraining online is the retailers themselves: their systems still show signs of strain at peak times and they need to be able to cope from order to delivery.”

The BRC analysis found the month started strongly with Cyberweek, with household appliances and electronic goods selling particularly strongly. But there was almost no growth at all in the week before Christmas, lifting only as sales week kicked in, when fashion sales were strong.

It suggested that click and collect options proved popular, with some department stores finding click and collect accounted for half their online sales. In home delivery, some retailers were more cautious with free delivery offers.

But for online, there would have been no growth in non-food retail sales at all. Total UK retail sales grew by just 1% in total during the month, while like-for-like sales fell by 0.4% compared to the same time last year.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium , said: “Despite Black Friday having dragged some of our pre-Christmas internet spending into November, sales online remained strong with December showing a seven per cent increase on the same period last year. This is especially good considering December 2013 saw the second highest growth ever recorded by our monitor.

“All product categories saw an increase in online purchases this month, showing that consumers’ burgeoning appetite to buy things on their computers, tablets and mobiles isn’t restricted to a single type of product. The numbers also show that all of the growth in non-food sales in December came from digital channels. However, in the same period we saw bricks-and-mortar stores holding their ground, which is a testament to how the UK’s retailers have finessed their multichannel offer – with the huge expansion in click and collect underpinning this.

“Although the busiest weeks for online shopping were predictably the week following Black Friday – Cyberweek – and the Boxing Day sales, the popularity of click and collect meant shoppers continued to buy online throughout December. This data is sure to spur retailers on to continue to perfect their multichannel offering in 2015.”

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