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Online sales grew by 15% in May: ONS

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UK retailers saw online sales rise by 15.1% in May, according to official figures published today.

The ONS’ Retail Sales Bulletin for the month estimates that £727.5m a week was spent online, up by 15.1% compared to the same time last year. Online spending accounted for 11.4% of all retail spending. In May 2013, ecommerce sales were equivalent to 10.3% of all retail sales.

Across all retail, sales were up compared to last year, but down compared to last month. The ONS estimated that the quantity bought rose by 3.9% in May 2014 compared with May 2013, and that the amount spent rose by 3.2%, year-on-year. Compared to April 2014, volumes were down by 0.5%, but three-month figures showed sales increasing by 1.3% for the fifteenth consecutive month. This, said the ONS, was the “longest period of sustained growth since November 2007.”

The figures for online buying show that internet shoppers spent more in department stores, with sales in that sector up by 26.5%, year-on-year. Some 10.5% of all retail sales in department stores now take place online. Shoppers also increased the amount they spent online on textiles, clothing and footwear (+17.6%, and accounting for 11.3% of all retail sales) and household goods (+3.5%; 5.9% of all sales). But in the ‘other’ category of stores, online sales were down by 15.7%, and accounted for 6.5% of all sales.

Richard Lowe, head of retail and wholesale at Barclays, said: “May’s temperamental weather resulted in many people preferring to shop online to avoid the drizzle, with consumers splashing out on sporting goods in anticipation of the World Cup kicking off this month.

“Recent news that inflation has fallen to its lowest level in almost five years is a boon for retailers – another positive sign that will help bolster consumer spending power in the months ahead.”

Claire Davenport, managing director,, said: “The 0.5% fall in retail sales is surprising in light of the fall in inflation in June (down to 1.5%), the excellent weather and the build up to various major sporting events. Our own research through the Centre For Retail Research found that UK retailers, pubs & clubs would make £1.3bn from spending around the World Cup tournament, so these figures will be disappointing for retailers. It may be the case that people are watching their pennies by choosing to watch the games at home with friends and family rather than spending money out, meaning decreased footfall and spending on the high street.

“We should start to see retail sales should improve in the coming summer months, so retailers should not be discouraged by the slight decrease. To combat this month’s dip retailers can do more to stand out from the crowd, such as strengthening their mobile capability and offering discounts and deals to win customers. We’d expect the upcoming school holidays and the beginning of the Wimbledon tournament to prompt increased spending.”

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