Online sales up in February, but growth rate slows

Online sales of non-food items in the UK rose 6.4 per cent last month, but could not match the growth rate of 8.0 per cent recorded in February 2017, the latest figures show.

February 2018’s growth rate was also below the three-month and 12-month averages of 6.5 per cent and 7.7 per cent respectively, according to the new statistics from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG.

But the UK’s online penetration rate – the share of retail sales attributed to internet shopping – increased from 20.5 per cent in February 2017 to 21.1 per cent in February 2018.

Last month, overall retail sales in the UK increased by 0.6 per cent on a like-for-like basis from February 2017, when they had decreased 0.4 per cent from the preceding year. On a total basis, sales climbed 1.6 per cent this February, against a rise of 0.4 per cent in February 2017. This was roughly in line with the three-month and 12-month averages of 1.5 per cent and 1.7 per cent respectively.

Over the three months to February 2018, in-store sales of non-food products fell 2.4 per cent on a total basis and 3.3 per cent on a like-for-like basis. For the 12-month period, the total decline was 2.2 per cent.

However, in-store food sales were up 2.8 per cent on a like-for-like basis and 4.0 per cent on a total basis. This was on par with the 12-month total average growth rate of 3.9 per cent, the highest since October 2012.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, commented: “The headwinds to retail spending continued to blow strong in February. Inflation is still eating into shoppers’ budgets, pushing them to spend a greater share of their income on essentials and leaving less left over to buy discretionary, predominantly non-food retail items. At the same time, weak growth in household earnings is keeping overall sales low.”

Paul Martin, head of retail at KPMG, added: “On the High Street, it was grocery sales that continued to pull it out of the bag. Meanwhile, Shrove Tuesday may have resulted in an uptick in cooking accessory sales, but performance in non-food in general was once again disappointing. Online retail appeared to have fared better – with growth across all categories – but the latest figures reinforce an underlying trend of a slowdown in growth online, which prompts concern.”

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