Online sales still ‘gaining traction’

February retail sales recovered following a slump in the previous two months, new figures have shown.

Online sales continue to win out in the retail sector, with the latest Office for National Statistics (ONS) Retail Sales in Great Britain report revealing that the average online weekly spend reached £1 billion, an increase of 20.7 per cent compared with February 2016.

The amount spent online accounted for 15.3 per cent of all retail spending, excluding fuel.

The report also found retail sales volumes increased by 3.7 per cent, when compared with February 2016, and increased 1.6 per cent compared with January 2017.

Average store prices, including fuel, increased by 2.8 per cent on the year. This is the largest growth since March 2012.

All main retail sectors, except petrol stations, saw an increase in the quantity bought (volume) in February 2017, compared with the same month last year. Sales values increased too, with the largest contribution in both volume and value coming from non-store retailing.

Kate Davies, ONS senior statistician, said: “February’s retail sales figures show fairly strong growth, though the underlying three-month picture shows falling sales as February’s figures follow two consecutive months of decline in December and January. The monthly growth in February is seen across all store types. The underlying trend suggests that rising petrol prices in particular have had a negative effect on the overall quantity of goods bought over the last three months.”

Hugh Fletcher, global head of consultancy and innovation at Salmon, added: “What is clear from ONS’s February retail stats is how online sales are gaining traction, with an increase of over 20 per cent compared with the same time last year. Although this is nothing new, it does emphasise how shoppers’ attitudes are changing and hammers home the benefits that having an online, multichannel offering can bring. After all, the amount spent online for all retail was two per cent higher than February 2016, which we expect to grow exponentially year-by-year. Online and mobile shopping are no longer just part of the ‘multichannel’ mix but the focus of it. As more and more consumers use online services to streamline their lives, it is essential that retailers provide a strong digital offering. After all, consumers respect and remain loyal to brands that make their busy lives easier.

“As the power of e- and m-commerce continues to grow, retailers must ensure they have a robust digital strategy in place to cater to growing user demand. But rather than treating digital strategy in isolation, businesses must digitise their whole business strategy to ensure that both front and back end digital innovation delivers true business value. Those that lag behind from fear of change must combat this to ensure they have an exceptional online offering to deliver true competitive advantage and future-proof their business.”