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Online sales rise in November: ONS and IMRG figures

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The UK’s online shoppers spent more than £7bn in a month for the first time in November, with sales up by 11% compared to the same time last year, according to the latest IMRG figures.

In all, some £7.1bn was spent during the month, according to the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, with sectors such as electrical and health and beauty reporting the strongest rises. But sales of clothing grew less quickly than at the same time last year, when snow was on the ground. Sales of 12-14% had been predicted for the fourth quarter of the year.

Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG said: “While the growth in e-retail sales in November is weaker than expected, this is on the back of a very strong performance in November 2010 when the Index recorded growth of 22%. With consumers suffering the biggest squeeze on the cost of living and disposable incomes in over 50 years, it appears the strain on high street retailers may now also be affecting the online retail sector.”

But, she added: “It is worth noting that we have not seen a repeat of the widespread snow disruption that heavily impacted upon deliveries last year, so consumers may be more confident in leaving their shopping a bit later this Christmas.”

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics reported in its latest Retail Sales Bulletin that non-store retailing rose by 19.1% in value and by 18.9% in volume in November. It said this showed “consumers were buying a significant amount more from non-store retailers than they did a year ago and also spending more.” Prices in the sector are thought to have risen by 0.1% on the same time last year, showing, said the ONS, that the growth was mainly down to the amount bought rather than price rises.

It put the total value of internet retail sales at a weekly average of £787.9m, accounting for 12.2% of all retail sales, excluding automotive fuel. That figure is up from the £593.4m spent each week in November 2010, when it accounted for 9.5% of all retail sales.

At the same time, it said, total UK retail sales, which are predominantly high street sales, grew by 0.7% in volume in November and 4.6% in value. Sales in the food and non-food sectors fell by 0.6% and 0.7% respectively.

The IMRG figures showed clothing sales grew by just 8% in November compared to the same time last year, when snow came and sales were up by 34%, year-on-year. Alcohol sales were up by just 2% while travel was down by 4% year-on-year, and 20% month on month. But electricals saw 14% growth since last year and 47% since last month. Health and beauty also did well, with sales up by 30% on last year and 63% on last month.

Chris Webster, head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini said: “While these lower than expected growth figures show that online is not immune to the economic slowdown, the shift from the high-street to online continues. A growth of just 11% is very disappointing for this time of year as traditionally shoppers start their Christmas shopping early to spread the cost of presents over several pay cheques. This does follow a particularly busy November last year, but nevertheless it is clearly a sign of consumers tightening their belts.”

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