Discounts and promotions helped to boost online sales in March, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor published today.
The figures showed that internet, mail order and phone sales rose in March by 15.9% compared to the same time last year. That’s a slight rise from the 15.5% growth recorded in February – but growth remains flat at 15.5% once the figures are weighted to reflect the longer month.
March’s sales were “mixed and often discount and promotion driven,” said the report, continuing: “Sales continued to outpace store sales but the expansion is from a very low base, as non-store sales account for only about 6% of total retail sales.”
According to the analysis, consumers uncertain about the outlook for their income and the economy opted for essentials. Clothing and footwear sales slowed but homewares improved, especially where good credit deals were available.
The figures come against a background that showed total March retail sales were up by 6.6%, or 4.4% on a like-for-like basis, stripping out the effect of store openings and closures. Internet, mail order and phone sales account for about 6% of the total UK retail sales.
They contrast with figures of 0.6% growth in March 2009, and are the “best total sales growth since April 2006,” according to Stephen Robertson, director general of the British Retail Consortium. But, he added: “They would have been only half as good without the distorting effect of Easter.” Last year Easter was later in April.
Helen Dickinson, head of retail at KPMG, added: “Retailers are fighting hard to encourage shoppers and offer value, which has slowed the rise in shop prices over the month, but how long they will be able to sustain this, given the pressure on margins, is debatable.”
Our view: That consumers are playing it safe when spending is no great surprise – and that the move to internet shopping continues is also logical. Buying essentials is something that has to be done – and increasingly experience is teaching shoppers that e-commerce can be a more convenient way of completing a chore.