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Ecommerce sales grew in April compared to last year, but fell compared to last month: ONS

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Online sales grew by 11.7% in April, compared to the same time last year, and accounted for 17.3% of all retail sales, official figures suggest today. But ecommerce sales were down by 0.4% compared to the previous month, estimated the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures come after a March in which online sales grew more strongly than the trend, but store visits fell amid snowstorms.

In April, online sales grew strongly at department stores (+25.2%) compared to a year ago, but fell by 3.8% compared to last month, according to the ONS Retail Sales Report for April 2018. Some 16.6% of all retail sales in this category took place online during the month. 

Textile, clothing and footwear stores saw strong year-on-year ecommerce growth (+25.5%), and month-on-month growth of 2.8%; 17.1% of sales in the sector were made online, which is a record proportion for the sector.

Household goods stores saw online sales grow by 8.1%, year-on-year, but fall by 8.2% month on month; 11.2% of sales in the sector were ecommerce ones.

Ecommerce food sales grew by 12.4%, year-on-year, and by 5.3% month-on-month, with 5.6% of sales online – a record in this sector.

Across all channels, shoppers spent 3.4% more money in April to buy 1.4% more goods than they did a year ago, excluding petrol. Sales grew by 1.3% more on both measures when compared to the previous month.

Rob Kent-Smith, head of national accounts at ONS said: “Retail sales bounced back in April, as petrol and other sales recovered from the snowfall. But the underlying position remains subdued with the volume of goods sold over the last six months broadly unchanged.”

He added: “Over the longer-term, retail sales growth has slowed considerably, with increases in food, household goods and internet retailers being largely offset by declines across all other types of retailing.”

Commenting on the figures, Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said both hot and cold spells of weather during April had influenced store visits. “Online sales are not affected in the same way and, as expected, ecommerce continued to do well in both volume of sales and cash spend,” she said.

She added: “There is still a lot of restructuring activity happening in the UK retail sector and the industry is now reacting to the tougher trading environment by reviewing tore portfolios and investing in technology to reflect consumer’s shift to online shopping. This reflects the findings of PwC’s store openings and closures research, which found that in 2017 16 stores closed a day across the UK, compared to 11 openings a day.

“Looking forward, we expect a recovery in retail sales in coming months. May has been a busy month for events including the Royal Wedding, the FA Cup and two sunny bank holidays boosting food and alcohol sales for home entertaining.”

Image: Fotolia

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