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Online ‘saved retailers’ bacon’ in May: new figures

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Ecommerce “saved retailers’ bacon” in May, returning double digit growth and lifting to fashion and footwear sales, new British Retail Consortium figures suggest.

Today’s BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for May 2013 showed online sales grew by 11% during the month. That compares with a 1.8% rise in UK retail sales values, on a like-for-like basis which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, and a 3.4% rise in total sales.

“To some extent retailers had their bacon saved by online sales,” said David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, “underlining the growing importance of the digital channel. Online sales growth helped to counter variable performances on the high street as many chose to take advantage of the same promotional offers from their sofas.”

The BRC figures suggested that non-store sales, which are predominantly online, added 0.7 percentage point to UK non-food growth during the month.

Helen Dickinson, director general at the British Retail Consortium, said promotions that ran across stores and online helped to boost ecommerce sales. “Website sales were key to boosting sales of clothing and footwear,” she said. “In fact if you strip out the online data, neither category would have seen much growth.

“Retailers are using a skilful mix of deals and discounts as part of their evolving omnichannel offer in-store and online, whether it’s social media promotions that reward loyal customers or discounts for collecting goods in store when you buy through the website. This respectable growth shows that customers are responding well.”

The BRC monitor also pointed to the growth of Click & Collect as well as other collection-based systems ranging from lockers to dedicated stores. And it also suggests that data gained in-store is helping to shape strategies. “The use of tablets and in-store digital search screens is proving a success and opening unexpected opportunities,” it said. “Some retailers report that evidence from online orders made in store is causing them to change the products they will stock in those stores in future.”

Meanwhile wi-fi is become more widely offered in shopping centres and grocers are moving into digital entertainment, with some offering both movie and ebook downloads.

According to the figures, furniture and flooring was the best-performing category during the month – for the first time since January 2011. Food sales grew in line with inflation. Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of grocery analysts IGD, said: “A spell of warm weather early in the month boosted sales but this was short-lived. Food companies will be hoping for extended sunshine in June to help offset last year’s Jubilee-enhanced comparatives. With the longer evenings and thoughts turning to summer holidays there could be an opportunity to provide shoppers with more indulgent treats.”

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