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February sees online retail record smashed yet again

Woman shopping online

February sees online retail record smashed yet again

Last month, a new record was set for the proportion of UK retail spending taking place online, beating a record set only the month before.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics show that well over a third of retail sales are now online, with a share of 35.2% recorded in January – a record since the ONS began collecting this data. However, the record stood for just one month and was outdone in February, when 36.1% of sales were internet based.

The share is almost double that of February 2020’s figure of 20%, driving home the extent to which COVID-19 and lockdown conditions have changed the way we shop. Figure 7 of the new ONS report shows that we began to really embrace shopping from behind our screens and mobile devices during March 2020, when lockdown first came into effect. E-retail boomed last April and May, reaching over 30%, and the proportion has not dropped below 28% since – not even when lockdown was eased last summer.

However, despite the growing appeal of online shopping, overall retail spend is down year-on-year, with Brits spending 1.6% less than they did in February 2020. This is not surprising, however, considering that we were not under lockdown back then, so more shops were open and people were more prepared to make non-essential trips to them. The disparity also highlights how much weight fuel has in retail spend, with year-on-year fuel sales down 26.5%. Clothing has suffered even more over the same period, with sales down an enormous 50.4%.

Even before COVID-19 hit us, online retail was growing by the year, so the pandemic has only expediated a change in shopping habits that was likely to happen anyway. It will be interesting to see how figures develop as restrictions are loosened, but last summer’s statistics suggest many shoppers have become comfortable with their online buying habits.

It all means it’s essential for any retailer to have an online shop, or at least a way of showing what they sell online. For help with your website, content and social media, get in touch with Engage Web.

John Murray

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