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September online sales up on last year – but down on last month: ONS

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Ecommerce grew in September, compared to the same time last year, but fell compared to the previous month, the latest official figures suggest.

Online sales grew by 9.1% on September 2018, but were 2% down on August 2019, according to the latest ONS Retail Sales report for September 2019. Online sales rose in almost all categories compared to last year, led by non-store retailers including pureplays (+13.3%) and household goods stores (+11.6%) and followed by grocers (+7.1%), clothing, footwear and textiles stores (+6.6%) and other – including key categories such as electricals – retailers (+1.6%). Sales were down year-on-year at department stores (-3.6%). 

But ecommerce sales fell in almost all categories compared to the previous month of August 2019, with declines shown across non-store retailers (-2.9%), other stores (-4.6%), department stores (-4.3%), food (-2.7%). The retail sales report says that while ‘other’ stores showed the largest fall, the non-store category was more significant due to the weighting of the category at 50.7% of online retailers. There were pockets of growth however, with both household goods (+5.8%) and clothing and footwear stores (+1.6%) reporting a rise in sales. 

Overall, 19.1% of all retail sales took place online – down from 19.5% a month earlier. Some 77.7% of non-store retailing sales were online, along with 18.9% of clothing, footwear and textiles sales, 16.5% of department store sales, 15.1% of household goods sales, 10.3% of ‘other’ retail sales and 5.6% of food sales. 

Nonetheless, most retail sales still take place in stores and across all sales channels, shoppers spent 3.6% more in September, compared to the same time last year, to buy 3.0% more goods, excluding automotive fuel. There was growth in all sectors except department stores and household goods. But retail sales were close to flat month-on-month as shoppers spent 0.2% more to buy 0.2% more goods, excluding fuel.

Commenting on the figures, David Jinks, head of consumer research at home delivery specialist ParcelCompare, said the month-on-month 2% fall in online sales stood out.

He added: “There’s little doubt Brexit battles made consumers wary in September, as the nation held its breath waiting to see if there would be a no-deal Brexit. Normally consumers turn to Amazon and eBay for a little retail therapy in times of trouble. But in September non-store retailing fell back -2.9% and online department stores a whopping 4.3% as shoppers tightened their wallets and their PayPal accounts.

“If even ecommerce growth is faltering amid the general Brexit gloom, UK retail looks to be in a perilous position. October is likely to be similar disappointing. Some kind of Brexit resolution in the run-up to the peak Christmas season is the best hope for high street and now even online retailers.”

Image: Fotolia

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