The British Retail Consortium
reports that growth in non-food non-store (internet, mail-order and phone) sales strengthened further in July to show a year-on-year gain of 20%, up from 16.8% in June and 7.6% in May.
This represents the strongest growth since January, when sales had been boosted by clearance sales.
Clothing and footwear sold well in end-of-season clearances and new catalogues and mail-shots gave a good start to autumn/winter ranges in the cooler and very wet weather. Homewares and furniture did well, with larger items continuing to benefit from promotional offers such as free delivery and attractive credit deals.
"Clearance discounts, especially on homewares, furniture and seasonal fashion, produced the strongest online sales growth for non-food goods this year," says Sharon Hardiman, head of non-store retailing at the BRC. "The combination of hard-up households holidaying at home and some wet weather keeping people indoors may have encouraged shopping from home."
But Hardiman points out "The gap between the growth of store and non-store sales of non-food goods widened but non-store still accounts for less than one pound in every twenty of total retail sales, and July is typically only one of the year's middling months for the overall value of retail spending."
Despite the apparently healthy growth of non-food non-store sales BRC director general Stephen Robertson is cautious about the outlook: "There is a sense among some customers that the beginning of the end of recession is here but rising unemployment and job-loss fears will continue to hold back the widespread return of consumer confidence for some time yet."
And Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, warns: "The results for the month and the rest of the year need to be considered in the light of the performance last year, which continued to weaken as the year progressed."