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Online sales grow in October, though Hallowe'en heatwave leaves overall sales flat

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Ecommerce sales saw their fastest growth since last Christmas in October – while high street sales stayed flat, according to British Retail Consortium figures.

Online sales of non-food products grew by 15.4% in October, compared to the same time last year, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor found. Last October, internet sales were up by 12.1%. Some 18.2% of non-food retail sales took place over the internet, 1.7 percentage points higher than last October.

Ecommerce growth last month, said the BRC, was in line with twelvemonth average growth of 14.8%. And while high street fashion outlets saw business slow, online promotions helped keep up the pace.

Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium , said: “Online sales took their largest slice of the pie of non-food sales growth since December 2013. October’s growth compared to last year was 3.3 percentage points faster, which bodes well for Christmas, especially as the proportion of online non-food sales was also the highest recorded since last Christmas.

“October saw many actions to encourage the sale of winter stock. Concurrent flash sales were run in-store and online. Loyal customers were offered exclusive discounts and due to this Clothing and Footwear did better online than in stores. As we march steadily on to the festive season online retail sales are set to increase, for example online Christmas shops are proving popular. ‘Mega Monday’, the first Monday in December, is one to watch as it is generally thought to be the biggest day for online shopping. However, retailers’ investment in ever-faster deliveries means that Mega Monday could be shifted closer to Christmas this year.”

But digital growth came as overall retail sales, which mostly take place in shops, stayed flat. Sales grew by 0% on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures, while total sales grew by 1.4%.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , put flat sales down to unseasonably warm weather. "Looking at these figures, most retailers will feel they were tricked rather than treated in October," he said. "Even the most experienced of shopkeepers could not have foreseen a heat wave at Halloween and most were left with sales which were flat at best.

“Sadly, this warmer weather has left many fashion retailers with a substantial stock overhang, raising the question of earlier and deeper discounts as we get closer to Christmas. Retailers need a nippy November to help them sell their winter stock before the season's out."

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