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Ecommerce and high street sales up in April thanks to the Easter effect

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Shoppers went online and to the high street to spend over Easter, helping to lift ecommerce sales by more than 10% in April and overall sales by more than 5%, new British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures suggest.

Online sales of non-food products grew by 10.3% during the month, lifted by the timing of Easter, In the same month last year, when Easter fell at the end of March, they fell by 6.6%. In April online sales represented 21.6% of total non-food sales in the UK, up from 21.1% a year ago.

In the three months to April, online non-food product sales grew by 8.2% – the highest ecommerce growth since January. Across channels, total non-food retail sales grew by 5.6%, contrasting with a 0.9% fall in sales a year earlier. Online contributed 1.6 percentage points to total sales, while in-store made a contribution of -0.9 percentage points.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC , said: “April marked a reversal of the trend of slowing levels of growth for online non-food sales with the strongest annual increase since November. This pick-up was mirrored in the overall non-food figure which was distorted positively by the timing of Easter.

“Trendy consumer electronics continue to be online bestsellers, while toys and health and beauty products topped the Easter purchases.

“Online continues to account for over a fifth of total non-food sales, but as we’ve seen in previous years, the school holidays boosted family visits to physical shopping destinations over online sites, resulting in the fastest growth for stores since last January.

“Looking at the bigger picture, the twelve-month average shows a downward trend in online growth, albeit reversed in April. This points to the significance of retailers’ ongoing efforts to invest in the customer offer across all channels, as they contend with rising cost pressures and dampened consumer spend.”

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG , said: “For online retailers who eagerly awaited this year’s late Easter, their patience paid off. Compared to last month’s comparatively low growth, April’s non-food online sales were up by a much healthier 10.3%.

“On the other hand, penetration rates in April dipped slightly to 21.6%, adding to the gradual decline noted since the beginning of the year. This month’s decline is most likely the result of shoppers feeling more inclined to hit the high street, helped by the milder weather and the days getting longer.

“Easter holidays resulted in a surge of online toy sales to keep the kids entertained. Similarly, the additional free time seemingly prompted shoppers to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into home improvements, with furniture and homeware sales proving popular.

“The prominence of online retail is only set to continue, and critical to a retailer’s success will be their ability to effectively combine online and offline sales activities.”

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