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Online sales grew by 12.3% in February: ONS

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Online sales grew in value by 12.3% in February, compared with a year earlier, official figures suggested today.

An average of £870.8m a week was spent via ecommerce, accounting for 13.1% of all retail spending, excluding automotive fuel, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in its Retail Sales report, February 2016. That’s up from 11.9% in February 2015.

But while online sales grew compared to the previous year, they were down by 1% compared with the previous month, January 2016.

At the same time, total UK retail sales across all channels grew in value by an estimated 1.4% to £26.7bn, or £6.7bn a week, and fell by 0.7% compared with January. However, the amount bought was up by an estimated 3.8% on last year, as average store prices fell by 2.5%, compared to last year. This is the 20th month in a row that year-on-year prices have fallen, and and the 34th month in a row that the amount bought has grown.

Online, the fastest growing category was in household goods, where sales grew by 31.8% to account for 8.3% of all spending in this area. Department stores also saw fast growth as sales grew by 26.5% to account for 12.4% of retail spending. Online grocery sales were up by 9.5% and accounted for 4.3% of all retail spending on food.

Melanie Richard, ONS head of retail sales, said: “Retailers had another strong month in February compared with last year with the exception of clothing and footwear. Some of those stores have been telling us that sales of their new spring and summer collections were hit by the cold and wet weather last month.”

Commenting on the figures, Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: “Once again, retailers are seeing that while people can be persuaded to spend during the sales, it is far harder to encourage them to open their purses without discounts.

“Just as a bumper November – thanks to Black Friday – was followed by a dismal December, so too were rising sales in January followed by falls in February.

“February is always a difficult month for retailers as they try to clear winter stock, even with the traditional sales of cards and beauty gifts around Valentine’s Day to lift the gloom.

“But while retailers enjoyed a good Valentine’s this year and there were more strong sales of big ticket items such as furniture, these weren’t enough to counter the fall in clothing, in online sales, and in food sales due to the prolonged supermarkets price wars.

“Now, with an early Easter upon us, and the challenge of the National Living Wage just days away, retailers quickly need to make sure they can tempt shoppers to spend without the incentive of margin-crushing discounts.”

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