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More than a fifth of UK retail sales took place online in May – for the fifth month in a row

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More than a fifth of UK retail sales took place online in May for the fifth month in a row, new figures from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) suggest. The contribution of online to overall sales grew as that of stores fell, suggesting a movement away from in-store shopping and towards online.

Ecommerce sales of non-food products (accounting for about 55% of all UK retail sales) grew by 13.7% last month to account for 21.2% of all retail sales, according to the BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor for May 2016. That takes the three-monthly average growth to 9.9%.

At the same time, overall retail sales grew by 1.4% in total, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for the month, and by 0.5% on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, and of business acquisitions and sales. BRC analysis showed that the online contribution to overall sales grew by 2.2 percentage points, while stores’ contribution fell by 1.7 percentage points.

Retailers saw growth in all categories online, said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC , with clothing proving particularly popular, along with toys and baby equipment.

“As contribution from stores was negative, online sales took more than their proportionate share of overall non-food growth,” said Dickinson. “The online penetration rate reached the third highest ever recorded, after Black Friday in November and the January sales.

“Retailers are confidently using their online channels to drive overall growth of their omni-channel businesses. This is evidently where businesses need to direct investment to ensure they remain competitive and meet the demands of the increasingly digital-savvy consumer.”

KPMG head of retail David McCorquodale said shoppers had taken advantage of “deeper discounts and well-timed promotions” to refresh their summer wardrobes.

“Penetration rates continued to climb, making May the fifth consecutive month above 20%,” he said. “With a possible heatwave on the horizon, a strong multichannel business will be key to ensuring retailers can weather all weathers.”

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