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Online sales lift as rain stops play on the high street

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Online sales grew fast in July as shoppers steered clear of the high street, two new sets of figures suggest.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) today reports that online sales rose by 15.6% last month, the fastest growth of the year, while the July High Street Sales Tracker from BDO showed a 24.9% lift in internet sales.

Total sales, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Index for July showed, were up by 2%, and 0.1% on a like-for-like basis. The BDO figures detected a 2.9% dip in like-for-like sales at mid-tier retailers.

“July was clearly not a golden month for retail,” said BRC director general Stephen Robertson. “Like-for-like sales were virtually flat compared with a year ago and total growth of two per cent was still behind inflation as consumers, dealing with squeezed budgets, prioritised their spending on essentials.

“After the June wash-out, more wet weather in July continued to stifle demand for outdoor gear. There was a boost for food retailers towards the end of the month as the sunshine came out and shoppers started getting in party food and drink ahead of the Olympics but it wasn’t a significant help.”

BDO says the overall fall in retail sales that it reports is the fastest since October 2011. “With consumers increasingly value-conscious it is still a challenging climate for retailers, and the rain in early July did not help,” said Don Williams, national head of retail and wholesale at BDO.

But he said investment in the internet was paying off for many. “Retailers are continuing to improve their online environment which is clearly reflected in the figures. This investment is critical if retailers are to keep up with the changing demands of consumers and offer them the products that they want in a way that is most convenient to them.”

Adam Stewart, marketing director at Rakuten’s, detected a fundamental change in retail in the figures. “The fact that online sales are up a staggering 25% compared to last July shows how retail is changing and how online should be playing an increasingly important role for retailers. It’s not surprising that high street sales have dipped this summer. With the wet weather and the expected congestion in London from the Olympics, consumers have understandably been avoiding the high street.”

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