Shoppers took more of their shopping online in October as they started to get ready for Christmas, says the British Retail Consortium (BRC), as it releases figures showing that almost a fifth of UK retail sales took place over the internet in October.
Online non-food sales for the month grew by 9.2%, compared to the same time last year, the BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor for October 2015 suggested. That's a slower growth rate than the 15.4% reported in October 2014, and 14.2% reported in September 2015. Some 19.1% of sales were online, up from 18.4% in October 2014. It is the highest penetration rate since November, says the BRC, and "an indication that the run-up to Christmas has begun."
Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC , said the growth of non-food online sales showed "a loss of momentum." But, she added: "October 2015 was right on trend with the online retail sales Christmas run-up we have seen in the last couple of years - a record proportion of purchases were made online.
"Online non-food retail sales were 19.1% of total non-food sales which is the highest since November 2014. The deep penetration rate can be partially attributed to customers looking for an online bargain in October's sales."
BRC analysis shows that some retailers are now offering attractive promotions in a bid to counter the slowdown in online spending that has in recent years been seen before Black Friday dawns.
David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , said: "“With the Bank Holiday boosting September figures, October growth rates online look somewhat weaker in comparison, with total non-food online sales up just 9.2%. However, online penetration rates jumped to 19.1% during the month as many retailers launched e-promotions to encourage pre-festive spending."
He said retailers would now be ensuring their websites and fulfilment operations were "ready to handle any fireworks on Black Friday and Cyber Monday."
BRC figures suggest that October was a strong month for the online sales of furniture and clothing, although online sales of beauty products grew at their slowest rate since the monitor began.
The online performance, however, was a bright spot in a month in which UK total retail sales, according to the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for October, grew by 0.9% but fell by 0.2% on a like-for-like basis.
October, said Dickinson, was a disappointing month – but may point the way to a strong Black Friday. "A number of categories which we’d typically expect to be popular on Black Friday saw a slowdown in October, suggesting that some shoppers may be holding out in the hope of some great deals at the end of November," she said. "Furniture had a good month however, likely boosted by higher disposable incomes."