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Online took its largest share of the retail market to date in October: BRC

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UK online sales grew by 12.1% in October, according to the British Retail Consortium’s latest Retail Sales Monitor, which found that some 18.3% of overall retail sales took place online during the month – a record penetration rate.

The figures, for non-food online sales, took six-monthly growth to 11.9%, while over the past year ecommerce sales have grown by 11.3%.

Overall retail sales were also ahead, with total sales up by 2.6% in October, compared to the same time last year. Like-for-like sales grew by 0.8% on last year.

“The share of non-food sales made online hit new heights in October, showing the highest ever penetration rate,” said Helen Dickinson, director general of the BRC .

“The month saw wide ranges of festive products and gift ideas hitting the shelves as retailers readied themselves for the countdown to Christmas, and many shoppers valued the choice and convenience that came with browsing and buying online.”

She said retailers had invested significantly in user-friendly websites, fast deliveries and convenient buying at home, in-store or on the move. “These figures are an encouraging sign that these improvements are striking a chord with customers,” she said.

“As we approach Christmas I would expect online sales to continue to pick up pace. This will be another bumper Christmas for the online sales channel, be it through click and collect or the traditional delivery to a customer’s door.”

Looking at the overall picture, she said October had seen a pause in consumer confidence. “While conditions remain challenging, the signs are that customers are managing their budgets well while allowing some leeway for occasional treats. Retailers will be looking to respond to this appetite for good value with a little luxury here and there in their promotions and product offerings for the Christmas period.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “These figures underline how vitally important online is to the average retailer’s overall performance. If we discount online transactions then fashion sales would have been negative this month. In fact online sales accounted for a third of the growth seen in the non-food sector over the last quarter, underlying their magnitude to both the retailer and the consumer.”

He added: “The next two months are vital with stock holdings, merchandising and margins being key to success. Shoppers seem reluctant to buy their gifts early and at full price, and many may be delaying their purchases in the hope that retailers will discount festive goods as the big day nears. The pressure is on retailers to kickstart sales, without the need to heavily discount. Christmas has always been retailers’ golden goose and a good performance in the next two months will help those in the red move back to the black.”

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