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Transition online continued in March: BRC

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Shoppers continued their move online and away from stores in March, the latest figures from the British Retail Consortium suggest.

The BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor for March showed that 20.5% of non-food sales took place over the internet – for the third month in a row. Ecommerce sales rose by 9.5% in March, compared to the previous year, taking the three-month average growth to 11.5%.

At the same time, the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for the month showed, UK retail sales stayed flat in March, and fell by 0.7% on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures. Between January and March, online contributed 2.2 percentage points to the growth of non-food retail sales, while 0.8 percentage points came from stores.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC , said online saw “healthy” growth. “Over £1 in every £5 spent on non-food was spent online, the third highest proportion on record,” she said. She added: “In today’s increasingly digital environment, retailers continue to invest in online and omnichannel strategies to evolve with changing consumer shopping habits. There is a need to think differently about the retail offer, whether digital or in store, as people crave more theatre and experience. Government also has a role to play in recognising the significance of the ongoing structural change and how the implications of this will be uneven across different parts of the country, different parts of the workforce and for different sizes of business.”

The BRC analysis suggests that online sales and poor weather resulted in an ecommerce boost. Sales grew online in all categories, but only furniture, homewares and health and beauty grew in store. Some 27.5% of clothing sales took place online, it found, along wtih 30.5% of footwear sales, despite a 0.2% fall in online shoe sales.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , said cold March weather meant “consumers shied away from the shelves in favour of the sofa.”

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