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Homewares and department stores benefit from 9.3% rise in online sales: ONS

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The amount UK shoppers spent online grew by 9.3% in April, according to the latest official figures.

The ONS Retail Sales report for April 2016 found that the value of online sales grew by 9.3%, compared with last April, and 1.7% compared with last month – March.

Some £886.6m a week was spent online – 13.4% of the £7bn spent each week across the retail industry. In total, £28.1bn was spent in the UK retail industry in April.

At the same time, the value of all retail sales grew by 1.2% on a year, and 1% on last month. But the quantity of goods bought grew by 4.3% as average store prices, including fuel, fell by 2.8% in April 2016 compared to the previous year.

The figures are estimates based on a monthly survey of 5,000 retailers – including all large companies employing 100 or more people.

The report found that household goods and department stores fared best from the online shopping growth, as household goods merchants saw ecommerce sales grow by more than a third (33.6%) to account for 8.6% of all spending, and department stores saw their e-sales up by more than a fifth (21.1%), accounting for 12.2% of all spending. Food retailers saw online sales up by 14.3% to account for 4.5% of all sales, but growth was less strong at fashion and footwear stores, where a 2% growth in ecommerce meant that 13% of all sales came via this channel.

Melanie Richard, ONS head of retail sales, said: “Clothing stores remain the main drag on growth in the retail sector, with sales hampered by unseasonal weather. However, both the volume and value of sales increased in April compared with March as lower prices boosted sales.”

Commenting on the figures, David McCorquodale, UK head of retail at KPMG said: “Today’s ONS figures show an increase in quantity bought for all categories except textile, clothing and footwear. Grocers in particular will be heartened to see that supermarkets won the largest piece of the pie in terms of contribution to growth last month, indication that despite the unseasonably cooler temperatures, consumers were still willing to purchase their favourite foodie treats. Deflation, however, pared back the growth in value terms.

“With online channels exhibiting slower than average growth in April, this gave way for a boost in department store sales which showed an increase in quantity bought of 8.2 per cent compared to the same period last year. If this is a signal that online growth is slowing, retailers will need to refresh their thoughts on the role of the store going forward and redefine the experiences offered within the store.”

Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “The rush to complete property deals ahead of the increase in stamp duty for investment properties gave a boost to household goods and furniture, lifting retail sales overall for the first time since January.

“Unseasonal weather and negative inflation meant there were still large areas of weakness elsewhere; fashion struggled with another cold month in April, while retailers in all sectors face higher costs due to the rise in wages brought about by the National Living Wage.

“But we expect this positive trend to feed through into other areas of the sector in the coming months. The overdue arrival of summery weather this month could help that, while some of the workers who did receive a pay rise in April due to the new living wage chose to spend at least some of it on the high street.

“Retailers now have to seize the initiative and do whatever they can to ensure that that shoppers continue to spend that extra income on things rather than experiences by heading to the high street and not into restaurants or on holidays.”

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