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UK leads Europe in internet shopping

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UK shoppers lead Europe in ecommerce, Government statistics have confirmed.

An E-Society report, produced by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that 66% of UK adults aged between 16 and 74, quizzed in 2009, had bought online in the previous year. That was followed by Denmark (64%), and the Netherlands (63%). Bottom of the table were Bulgaria and Romania, with 5% and 2% respectively.

ONS figures also showed that the value of internet retail sales in Great Britain rose from an average weekly value of £169.3m in November 2006 to £446.1m in July 2010. By July 2010, internet sales made up 8% of the country’s total retail sales.

Between 2006 and 2009, the proportion of UK online shoppers grew from 45% to 66% of the adult population. The largest change over the period was in France, where 22% of adults shopped online in 2006 and 45% did so in 2009.

The figures also showed that in 2010, 19.2m UK households, or 73%, had internet access, up from 57% in 2006. In 2009, 69% of UK households had broadband access. The highest proportion of broadband-connected households was in Sweden (79%), followed by the Netherlands (77%) and Denmark (76%).

Of those UK households without access, 39% said they did not need it, while 21% cited a lack of skills in the household and 20% said they didn’t want it.

And when it came to what they used the internet for, in 2009 30% said they or someone else in the household had access to a social networking site and 20% said they had used a mobile phone to access the internet.

Some 97% of internet users aged 16-24 had used the internet in the previous three months – and were most likely to use it every day or almost every day (82%). Of those aged 65 and over, 32% used it every day or almost every day, and 59% used it every day or almost every day.

The report said: “Over three-quarters (78%) of those who had access the internet in the three months prior to interview had done so every day or almost every day, while a fifth (17%) had accessed it at least once a week but not every day.”

Our view: It’s long been assumed that the UK has the most mature ecommerce market in Europe, but these figures seem to put that beyond doubt. This study also gives some valuable insights into the potential of other European markets for online purchases. Interestingly, the fastest-growing ecommerce market since 2006 seems to be the French one, rising by 23 percentage points to 45%. However both there and in Germany where 56% of adults shop online, one might have expected there would be more internet consumers.

So why are UK shoppers more likely to shop online? This study doesn’t answer that question – but one theory is that UK consumers pick up earlier on US-led innovation than other European markets, making them more likely to follow the American example when it comes to shopping online.

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