Double-digit ecommerce growth keeps UK retail sales positive in January: BRC

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Ecommerce turned in double-digit growth in January as shoppers flocked online to buy in the New Year sales, new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggest. This helped to keep overall UK retail sales in positive territory last month: a two percentage point contribution from internet retailing meant total UK sales grew by 1.6%, while like-for-like sales were up by 0.2%.

While online sales of non-food products rose by 11.7% in January, compared to the same time last year, the rate of growth was behind the 19.2% growth achieved last January. However, online growth was close to the twelvemonth average of 12.7%.

This January however, ecommerce accounted for 18.4% of non-food sales, compared to 16.8% last January.

“Online sales for January tend to be strong with people surfing for online bargains after the busy frenzy of Christmas shopping,” said Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium . “With January online sales making up their largest proportion of overall retail sales only second to November, the results show just how popular online sales were.

“As websites continue to improve, including ease of use on mobile devices, with more stock being listed online, it is not a surprise that we loved buying online this January.”

She added: “Retailers who have invested in an omnichannel strategy will certainly take comfort in these figures.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , said: “Online sales had a strong January, bolstered by seasonal sales campaigns and targeted marketing drives. This side of retailers’ business has a leading role to play in driving overall sales growth, with more shoppers than ever choosing the convenience of buying online. In order to significantly move the dial, substantial spend is needed to improve the robustness of retailers’ systems and improve the experience for customers. Retailers’ online operations warrant the lion’s share of their investment budgets this year.”

Our view: Retailers with omnichannel strategies certainly will take comfort from these figures. Those who do not, however, will once again face the recognition that shoppers now want to buy through a range of sales channels. Failing to offer that choice means retailers will fail to thrive in 21st century commerce.

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