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UK shoppers spend more online as they look for better deals

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The UK’s shoppers are flocking online in pursuit of better deals, according to two sets of figures out this week.

The latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index says British shoppers spent 19% more over the internet in the first half of 2011 than they did at the same time last year, taking the total spent online in the first half to £31.5bn. That’s ahead of IMRG’s prediction for 18% growth this year.

In June alone, sales rose by 21% on last year to hit £5.3bn, equivalent to £86 per shopper. In the same month, according to British Retail Consortium figures high street spending fell, pushing like-for-like UK retail sales down by 0.6% compared to the same time last year. In May, sales grew by 18%, according to the IMRG index.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics said non-store sales – primarily online sales – grew in volume by 24.4% in June, contrasting sharply with a 0.4% rise over the month in total retail sales volumes, compared to the previous year. Internet sales, it said now accounted for 9.9% of the total UK retail market. The value of total UK retail sales grew by 4% in June, compared to June last year. Price inflation was a major driver of this growth, since June prices rose by 3.7%, the ONS said, with the highest price rises of 5.8% found in food stores.

Chris Webster, head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini, said the June growth in online sales, as reported by IMRG, was consistent with a strong year to date. “Bank holidays, soggy weekends and major sporting events encourage us to go online for our shopping – it’s quick, convenient and we can do it 365 days a year. What’s more, we don’t need to be armed with an umbrella.

“It will be interesting whether the Index can maintain growth off the back of strong growth in the second half of 2010.”

Sectors that saw strong growth in June included clothing, where a 31% sales boost compared to June 2010 contrasts with poor sales offline. Travel was up by 14%, year on year, alcohol by 10% and gifts by 14%. Online sales peaked in the two weeks before Father’s Day.

David Smith, chief marketing and communications officer at IMRG, said: “Many were predicting a tough year for retail in 2011 and in the high street that has proved to be the case, but the online market has actually grown by 19% over the first half of the year.”

He added: “The rise in June of 21% is actually the strongest year-on-year growth recorded in the index since January, so online is really booming. The modern retail market is dicated by what the consumer wants, and online is becoming ever-more central to our shopping behaviour. Both Sports Direct and SuperDry have released figures recently showing their ecommerce sales have doubled in the space of a eyar from around 4% to 8% of total revenue. These results clearly demonstrate the potential for multichannel retailers.” He said pureplay ASOS’ recent 69% growth, driven by international sales, made it “a leading light in terms of opportunities in the international market.”

Russ Carroll, UK managing director of, said: “Shopping behaviour clearly reflects the weather and time of year, with sports and outdoor equipment registering the largest year-on-year growth on Baby care, mobile phones and toys all showed strong growth too as people turned online to find the best deals.”

And Kelkoo’s marketing director Chris Simpson said: “With the summer sales in full swing and consumers on the lookout for some bargains, it’s no surprise that shoppers are turning to the internet rather than the high street, especially as they can find savings of 15%. As the biggest online growth area in the first half of the year, the fashion sector is likely to receive a further boost from the summer promotions period as consumers refresh their wardrobe ready for the annual holiday getaway.”

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