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UK shoppers spent a record £10bn online in July: Adobe

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UK shoppers spent a record £10bn online in July, new data suggests.

The new estimate comes from the Adobe Digital Economy Index, which uses analysis of billions of online transactions to reach the figure of £10bn spent last month. That, it says, is both the highest monthly spend of 2021 so far, and the highest ever level of spending in July. 

So far this year, the study suggests, UK shoppers have spent £64.9bn – up by 18% on the same period last year and by 56% on the same time in 2019. 

The analysis also finds that online inflation rose by 2.8% in July, compared to the previous year, as demand rose amid supply chain pressures. Groceries (+3%), books (+5.5%) and apparel (+3.8%) saw the largest increases. That comes after a June in which online inflation rose by 4.8%, year-on-year. That’s ahead of the 2.5% increase seen in the Consumer Prices Index, which covers all retail channels. 

Paul Robson, president of international at Adobe, says: “The pandemic further accelerated the move to digital. Consumers have become accustomed to ordering everyday goods online, and many of them won’t be turning back. This expansion of the digital economy has been unprecedented in its scale and will fundamentally reshape what consumers expect from brands they interact with.”

The report suggests that shoppers continued to buy online rather than go in-store. A companion Adobe survey of 1,000 UK adults, carried out between July 26 and August 1, found 40% planned to avoid in-store shopping even after restrictions lifted, while 56% planned to avoid busy areas such as high streets, and 68% will continue to wear a mask in-store. 

Just over half (51%) said their workplaces had reopened, and 39% had returned to the office full-time for the first time since March 2020. A third said they had bought new clothes to return to the office, while Digital Economy Index data showed work clothing sales rose by 200% in the six weeks to the end of July, compared to the six weeks before the pandemic, in January and February 2020. 

The data also points to shoppers spending online in response to extreme weather, from June and July heatwaves – when online sales of fans and air conditioning units rose by 120% on May – to heavy rainfall and flash flooding in the last week of July – when online sales of umbrellas, raincoats and wellies grew by 51% overnight. 

Last week’s BRC–KPMG Retail Sales Monitor for July suggested that 48.4% of non-food sales took place online in July, down from 54% in July 2020. That’s well up on the 29.7% of sales that took place online in July 2019. The higher penetration rate came as the BRC figures suggested that July sales grew by 0.6% compared to the previous year. Total sales across all channels grew by 6.4% year-on-year at the same time, said the BRC. 

Meanwhile, research from Direct Line business insurance suggests that 29m British holidaymakers will have their summer break in the UK this year – meaning £17bn in spending for local high streets. The Direct Line research questioned 2,001 UK adults between July 30 and August 3 and found that 67% of domestic tourists will prioritise shopping at small businesses, with 49% saying they’ll buy from small independent shops. 

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