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Ecommerce grows at its fastest rate for three years over Christmas

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Online sales grew by 19.2% in December, and at the fastest rate for three years as expansion of mobile shopping gave fresh impetus to ecommerce, according to British Retail Consortium figures.

Ecommerce accounted for 18.6% of all non-food retail sales in the month, according to the BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor. Last December it accounted for 16.5% of them.

At the same time UK retail sales rose by just 0.4% on a like-for-like basis, which the BRC described as a “respectable overall result”.

“As expected, more of us clicked into Christmas than ever before, with online non-food sales growth putting in its best performance since March 2010 and accounting for nearly 20 per cent of spending,” said BRC director general Helen Dickinson.

“The surge in the use of tablets and smartphones last year, together with the ever faster delivery times achieved by an increasing number of retailers, have provided a new spur of growth to online shopping.

“Multichannel built on its strong position across all stages of the customer journey, from browsing and comparing prices to buying and collecting in-store. Retailers have invested significantly in their websites and delivery times, and this enhanced offer clearly struck a chord with customers who valued flexibility, choice and convenience whenever and wherever they did their shopping.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , said: “With one in five items bought on the internet in December, this really was an online Christmas for the retail sector. The statistics show that whilst store sales continue to flatline, online sales remain the main driver of growth for the sector, contributing nearly three quarters of the uptick in non-food sales in the last quarter of 2013.

“The winners this Christmas were those retailers with slick multichannel operations, who could offer consumers the flexibility to shop how, and when, they wanted to.

“Retailers now need to focus on the ‘last mile’ and figure out how to get the item to the customer even faster. Retailers who can offer same day delivery, at a reasonable price, will be the winners in the race for sales in 2014, and steal a march on their competitors.”

Commenting on the figures, David Rimmer, chief operating officer at Rakuten’s , said: “Shoppers are becoming more and more confident in making online purchases – but only if the retailer’s web offering is strong and secure. Trust for the brand is absolutely paramount, in fact our own research shows that almost 50% of consumers consider reliability to be most important when purchasing online.

“With trust trumping price for some consumers, retailers shouldn’t compromise their retail site or promise of delivery if they hope to profit from the growing ecommerce industry this year. Retailers can continue the record Christmas for online, but only with an online offering that will deliver every time.”

Stuart Higgins, retail partner at LCP Consulting, said confidence in deliveries was also a factor.

“The BRC figures again illustrate that online sales continued to grow this Christmas fuelled by the impact of mobile devices, the Black Friday event and pressure for early discounts, coupled with bad weather which kept people at home,” he said.

“Consumer confidence in the ability of retailers to deliver either Click-and-Collect or home delivery orders fuelled with a desire to ‘get that bargain present’ meant later sales volumes closer to Christmas.”

“Against this backdrop, retailers need to invest urgently in building omnichannel capabilities that integrate effectively with suppliers, deliver consistently to consumers and provide strong financial results for their business. They also need to understand that supply chain fulfilment capabilities and readiness are integral to the brand experience and must deliver consistently against the brand promise, irrespective of the time of year.”

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