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Retail spending moves further online as ‘consumers no longer think in channels’ : BRC

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Retail spending moved further online in April, new British Retail Consortium figures suggest today. Even as retail sales slowed both online and in stores, more sales still took place online, the analysis suggests.

The BRC/KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor for March showed that non-food ecommerce sales grew by 6.6% in April, compared to the same time in the previous year. That took the three month average, between February and April, to 8.9%. In total, 20.9% of non-food retail sales took place on the internet and, BRC figures showed, online contributed 2.1 percentage points to overall retail sales growth while store sales fell by 1.3 percentage points.

At the same time, total retail sales – across all channels – stayed flat, with 0% growth. Measured on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, sales fell by 0.9%. In the three months to April, total sales have grown by an average of 0.3%, with food sales down by 0.2% and non-food sales up by 0.7%.

Commenting on the ecommerce growth, Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC said: “Today’s monitor shows that online has been the driving force behind sales growth in the three months to April – digital sales contributed just over two percent to total non-food sales growth while store based transactions fell by -1.3 per cent. With consumers no longer thinking in channels, physical stores can continue to contribute to the success of a retailer’s online offer and vice versa. It’s therefore critical for retailers to finesse their offer from clicks to bricks and for policy makers to ensure regulations for consumer protection and retailers alike are consistent and channel agnostic.”

She said it was “little surprise” that the value of online sales growth is slowing in a more mature market. At 6.6%, April’s growth was the slowest since April 2013. “However,” she added, “online remained a significant proportion of total non-food retail sales at 20.9 percent; only fractionally down on the highest on record.

The figures measure changes in the value of non-food sales, which currently represent around 55% of all retail spending in the UK, as reported to the BRC by retailers.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , said: “Despite a further slowdown in online sales during April, penetration rates remained high as cleverly-timed discounting and promotional activity proved online players were no ‘April fools’.

“With unseasonably cold weather delaying the sales of spring ranges in the month, consumers chose to spruce up well-worn winter warmers with jewellery and accessories from the comfort of the living room rather than hitting the high-street for new outfits. Health and beauty also fared well as retailers extended online ranges and promotions.

“Looking ahead, retailers may well need to bolster online offerings as warmer temperatures start to

tempt consumers back into the shops.”

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