One in 10 retail sales took place online in April as cold weather kept shoppers out of the shops, according to official figures.
The April 2013 Retail Sales bulletin from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 10% of sales during the month happened online. The relatively high proportion of sales that took place online appeared to bear out suggestions by larger retailers, said the ONS, that “during the continued cold weather consumers purchased from their online sites rather than in store.”
Online spending grew during the month to £571.7m a week, up by 13.2% compared with the same month last year. That contrasted with total retail spending, which rose by 1.3% compared with last April, while sales volumes increased by 0.5% on the previous year.
Compared with March 2013, total retail spending and the volume of goods bought both fell by 1.3%.
The movement downwards came primarily from the food sector. Spending on food fell by 0.2%, year-on-year, during the month in what the ONS said was the “largest contraction on record.” Meanwhile, the quantity of food items bought fell by 3.8%, the biggest fall since June 2011.
Some 3.4% of food sales were online, and online sales in the sector grew by 5.9%, year on year.
Non-food online spending grew by 7.1% overall in April, compared to the previous year, with internet sales at department stores up by 16.4%, at textile, clothing and footwear stores up by 17.4%, and household goods stores down by 15.8%.
Sales in the non-store retailing sector, which includes mail order and telephone sales as well as ecommerce, grew by 21.2% on the previous year. Internet sales in the sector now accounts for 66.6% of total spending.
Commenting on today’s retail sales figures, the British Retail Consortium’s director general Helen Dickinson said the figures were “better than they look, and it’s all down to this year’s earlier Easter.
“April this year didn’t benefit from an Easter boost as in 2012 so sales look weak by comparison, especially for food which had its worst ever performance.
“The ONS figures actually suggest that April was broadly in line with march if you take out the distorting effect of Easter timings.
“The volatile weather conditions in April made this a mixed month for various retail categories. Demand for new-season clothing and footwear lifted with temperatures towards the end of the month, a welcome boost after sales suffered during the lingering wintry weather.”
ONS figures are estimated based on figures from 5,000 retailers of all sizes.