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UK online sales return to growth in September, though 2015 sales still fall short of expectations

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UK online sales returned to double-digit growth in September, according to IMRG figures today. But overall growth for the year to date is still short of expectations. IMRG and Capgemini forecast that that 2015 online sales would grow by 12% this year, after 2014 saw sales reach £104bn, 14% up on the previous 12 months.

The hope now must be that peak season sales will grow at a faster rate.

As a result of the 12% rise in the value of ecommerce transactions recorded last month by the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, compared to the same time last year, growth for the year to date now stands at 10%.

Sales made via mobile devices, both smartphones and tablets, grew by 41% in September on the same time last year. So far this year, m-commerce has grown 43% in 2015, compared to 46% at the same point in 2014.

The latest figures follow a weak August, when online sales grew by only 5% – the most subdued performance for that month recorded by the index since it was launched in 2000.

The return to growth appears to have come thanks to a late Bank Holiday in the first week of the month and warm weather. September sales were 8% ahead of August. The launch of the iPhone 6s also appeared to have made an impact, with electrical sales enjoying their second biggest boost of the year, at 6.4% growth.

But Alex Bingham-Smith, head of digital, consumer products and retail at Capgemini , said the September recovery was still not as strong as the sector would have liked.

“With the Rugby World Cup, the warm weather and the late Bank Holiday, retailers could be forgiven for expecting a better performance in September,” he said. “As we approach the busy Christmas period, and with Black Friday just a few weeks away, it will be interesting to see whether British shoppers have intentionally held back for the heavy discounting the festive season brings.”

Andy Mulcahy, editor at IMRG : “It’s been a very topsy-turvy year so far in 2015 for online retail growth – we had a slow Q1, a strong Q2 and now an average Q3. While we might have expected growth to be higher in September – it was building on flat growth in September 2014 – the prolonged period of very warm weather will have impacted upon shopper behaviour so it’s going to be interesting to see what kind of Q4 we get; certainly all the indicators are suggesting that the Black Friday peak will evolve again to become an even bigger shopping event than it was last year.”

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