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Online sales grow by 15% in August

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Online sales grew by 15% in August, according to new figures from the British Retail Consortium.

The rise in non-food ecommerce sales, was the strongest of the year so far, today’s BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for August 2013 found. Last August, non-food online sales grew by just 4.8% during the London 2012 Olympic Games – the weakest internet growth the monitor had ever recorded. The BRC said this year’s online growth was “always going to be strong in comparison.” Indeed, strong online sales helped to maintain growth in some categories. Sales of clothing and footwear, for example, declined slightly in August before ecommerce was taken into account.

“Online sales had a strong showing in August, comparing well against a fairly weak July and a record low the previous year when hearts and minds were captured more by sporting triumphs than shopping,” said Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium. “Many of us spent less time outdoors than in July and more time browsing and buying end-of-summer offers and new Autumn ranges. These factors elevated online sales growth to more positive territory well above the 12-month average.”

Total retail sales grew by 3.6% in August, with like-for-like sales, stripping out the effect of store openings and closures, up by 1.8%. This, said Dickinson, was evidence of an uptick in consumer confidence. “Non-food had an impressive month,” she said, “as retailers answered the continuing cautious optimism with good ranges and appealing promotions, especially in their back to school offers and items for the home. The category’s performances both in in-store and online measure up well against below par showings in August 2012, when shopping took second place to watching the Olympics for many of us.

“In contrast it wasn’t such a golden month for food, which performed strongly in 2012 as many of us stocked up on celebratory fare for the month of sport. Overall, these are very encouraging figures which maintain the sense that a consumer-led recovery is tentatively taking shape.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, pointed to a rebound in furniture and flooring sales. “It’s a positive sign,” he said, “that consumers feel confident enough about the future to make large scale, non-essential investments in their home. Whether or not these investments are being powered by finance or consumers dipping into their savings remains to be seen – a debt or savings-fuelled spending bubble, of course, would not be sustainable in the long term.”

Food sales were less buoyant, with like-for-like growth up by 1.4%, compared to 2.1% for non-food. Joanne Denney-Finch chief executive of grocery analysts IGD said the month had suffered in comparison with July’s hot weather and last August’s Olympic games. “Despite this, the beginning and end of the month had relatively strong total sales,” she said. “In these circumstances it’s difficult to get a sense of whether consumer confidence is building in line with other positive economic news.” But she said the IGD’s shopper research provided grounds for optimism, with 17% now expecting food prices to become more expensive, compared with 27% at the start of the year.

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