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Shoppers spent less online in December than they did in November: ONS

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The move of the Christmas shopping peak to November appears to be confirmed in figures out today from the ONS. December’s online sales in December were 21.3% up on the same time in the previous year – but they were also down by 5.3% on November. That suggests a major change towards the now huge influence of Black Friday and Cyber Week on Christmas spending in 2016.

Overall, said the Office for National Statistics’ Retail Sales report for December 2016, some 15% of retail spending took place online last month.

Across the retail industry, shoppers spent 5.4% (5.1% excluding fuel) more than they did a year ago, and bought 4.3% more goods, by volume, than last year. Across the industry value (-1.3%) and volume (-1.9%) of goods bought were also lower in December than in November. The bulletin covers the period from November 27 2016 to December 31. The ONS says that estimates of Black Friday spending are not included – falling in November instead – but those for Cyber Monday, the first Monday in December, were.

Kate Davies, ONS senior statistician said: “Retailers saw a strong end to 2016 with sales in the final quarter up 5.6% on the same period last year, although the amount bought fell between November and December once the effects of Christmas are removed. There were some notably strong figures from smaller retailers, in particular butchers, who reported a significant boost in sales in the run up to Christmas.”

Focusing on online spending, department stores saw sales grow by 8.6% to account for 13.1% of all spending in the category, textile clothing and footwear stores saw 5.5% sales growth (13.1% of retail spending), food stores saw 17% growth (5.4%), household goods saw 19.3% growth (9.8%), and other stores saw sales grow by 25.1%, to reach 8.1% of all spending.

Commenting, Patrick Munden, head of retail and marketing at Salmon , said: “2016 was the year that Black Friday grew into a phenomenon, displacing the more common Christmas peak that retailers usually see. Mobile was crucial to this, with majority of online orders during Black Friday (51%) and Christmas (60%) reaching record levels. Mobile is now the biggest player in the retail space and, with consumers looking to secure greater luxury in their daily shop, vendors that do not embrace this shift will flounder in the ultra-competitive retail market.”

Heather Barson, director for retail and hospitality, UK and Ireland at Fujitsu, said:

“Decembers ONS figures although up from last year, demonstrate a clear shift in consumer’s shopping behaviour and to a degree solidifies November as the prime Christmas shopping period. With December sales down 1.9% compared to November, it suggests savvy consumers took advantage of the offers available during Black Friday and the week’s that surrounded it, doing the majority of their Christmas shopping then.

“What’s interesting about these results is that they highlight how shoppers online habits have evolved over the past year, with online sales up 21.3%, compared to last December; a clear indicator of consumers becoming ever more at home with using digital channels to shop.

“Looking at the year ahead, retailers need to embrace the growing popularity of online shopping and view it as an opportunity to bring bricks and mortar stores into the digital era.

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