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How online shopping is moving away from shops: ONS

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Nearly half of every pound spent online in 2015 was spent with a retailer that had no shops, new analysis from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggests.

The ONS study, Shopping in shops that have no ‘shops’ says that in 2008, 5p in every £1 spent with retailers was spent online. By 2015 this had risen to 13p. And when people shopped online in 2015, 49% of spending – or 49p in every pound – went to retailers that had no permanent physical store. This, says the analysis, is “not a blip – it’s actually a growing trend – up from 41p of every £1 spent in shops online in 2010.”

The report suggests while the supermarket was arguably the big retail development of the 20th century, making shopping less personal for many, the 21st century has been about shopping online – a development that some say has made shopping even less personal.

It suggests that while 88% of all UK shopping took place in physical stores in 2015, “the British public are not ready quite yet to move to an exclusively online shopping experience.” However, it says, some types of shopping might be more likely to take place online in the future. “It does seem,” said the report, “that there are some items we are more willing to buy online than others.”

Those items include clothing, with 12% of spending taking place online, and department store purchases (11p).

The ONS report suggests this might be down to delivery and returns. “When ordering food to be delivered you have to ensure you are at home for the delivery – this is not so for clothing items. Also, it can be difficult and time consuming to return food but lots of clothing stores have made it free and very easy to return their products by making it possible to drop packages off at the corner shop for example, or using lockers in supermarkets.”

The analysis also looks at how shopping has changed in November – the period around Black Friday, Cyber Monday and other online events. While 6% of November shopping took place online in 2008, this had risen to 16% by 2015.

“While people spend more overall online and in store in December than November, the advent of online sales events like Cyber Monday, which take place in November, and the increasing convenience of online shopping, has seen people seemingly using online buying as a chance to get organised early for Christmas,” said the report.

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