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UK shoppers went online to buy in the January sales: BRC

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UK shoppers turned online to buy in the January sales, with 21.5% of all non-food retail sales taking place over the internet last month, according to new British Retail Consortium figures.

Online sales of non-food products grew by 14.9% during the month compared to January 2015, and contributed 2.4 percentage points to year-on-year growth of total non-food items. Despite this, stores made a larger contribution.

“While online continued to be a key driver of growth for retailers in January, after playing a vital role in driving sales over the Christmas period, overall growth was more balanced across both channels,” said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the BRC . “Online’s contribution to the growth of non-food sales in January, 2.4 percentage points, was outperformed by that of stores. For example, footwear and furniture sales experienced more growth in stores than online, a sign that the high street’s attraction remains strong.”

The rise in online trading came as total UK retail sales rose by 3.3%, or by 2.6% on a like-for-like basis that strips out store openings and closures. That’s the strongest growth recorded since September 2015.

“January’s performance was driven by big-ticket items, in particular furniture, which is encouraging in the largest month of the year for the category.” said Dickinson. “However, the performance in clothing and footwear was driven by the New Year sales. After seeing a slight recovery in December, food sales were once again slightly down in January, while the mildly positive longer-term trends were unchanged.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG , said: “While online growth slowed slightly in January to 14.9 per cent, the popularity of this channel continued from December with penetration rates rising to 21.5 per cent. Retailers encouraged shoppers to beat the back-to-work blues with a variety of seasonal e-promotions. Fashion sales were particularly popular as consumers took full advantage of clearance sales and the colder weather encouraged purchases of heavier knits and woollens.

“As use of online channels continues to increase, retailers continue to invest in their logistics, fulfilment and returns networks to improve the customer experience.”

Focusing on the food and drink sector, Joanne Denney-Finch, chief executive of food and drink analyst IGD , spoke of changes in the way shoppers buy groceries.

“Looking ahead, competition is set to intensify even further as shoppers continue the trend for shopping little and often,” she said. “Three out of ten (31%) say they are shopping more frequently for groceries than three years ago and over a third (36%) say that if their incomes rise this year they will shop even more frequently.”

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