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Online sales clock up their fastest growth for more than a year

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Online sales last month showed their fastest growth for more than a year last month, according to new figures out this week. UK shoppers spent £6.4bn online in September, 16% more than at the same time last year and 11% more in August, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

The boost to growth has led IMRG and Capgemini to raise their forecast for the year by a percentage point to 14%.

Meanwhile figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) suggested that online sales grew by 9.4% in September compared to the same time last year to an average of £507.8m a week. That was equivalent to 8.8% of all UK retail sales, excluding sales. At the same time, it said, an average of £6.6bn a week was spent across all types of retailing in September 2012. Total retail sales rose year-on-year by 2.5% in volume and 3.2% in value, according to the September Retail Sales bulletin. Compared to August 2012, total UK retail sales were up by 0.6% in volume and 1.1% in value.

IMRG’s Tina Spooner said September’s performance meant that UK online sales had grown by 15% in the third quarter of the year. “This is the strongest quarterly growth recorded since Q2 last year and is perhaps an indicator that overall consumer confidence is increasing,” she said. “The cooler and unsettled weather towards the end of September gave a much-welcomed boost to the clothing sector, with annual growth at its highest level since October last year.”

Categories that saw the fastest growth included gifts, with year-on-year growth of 54%, while clothing (18% year-on-year (YOY) and 27% month-on-month), include the fast-growing accessories category (49% YOY). The beers, wines and spirits and health and beauty categories both grew by 20%.

Online-only retailers continued to grow faster than multichannel retailers, but the difference between the two narrowed to 3% as, IMRG suggested, shoppers returned to the high street following disappointing summer weather and summer events.

Sales through mobile devices continued to rise quickly, with growth put at 312% in September. The September conversion rate was 1.9%, the highest recorded to date.

Capgemini’s Chris Webster said this reflected the wider takeup of smartphones. “The upward trend in mobile conversion rate indicates the steady infiltration of smart phones and tablets as a buying device now, which used to be more of a browsing tool in the past,” he said. “Online retailers should wake up to this change and include a smart phone mobile shopping application or mobile web in their multichannel offering platter.”

IMRG’s Spooner said: “The upward trend in the conversion of browsers to buyers is evidence that consumer behaviour is being transformed by mobile devices. Retailers that integrate the mobile platform as an essential part of their multichannel strategies will no doubt continue to reap the rewards over the lucrative festive shopping period.”

eCommera director of mobile solutions Omid Rezvani said: “With smartphone penetration now well above 50% all retailers need to recognise the implications of the data and to optimise their online sites to welcome mobile browser visitors working their way through their Christmas list. Furthermore, those retailers with a well-designed mobile app should be well placed to increase conversion and average order value through greater use of personalisation and assisted in-store sales.”

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