Shoppers turned to online Christmas shopping in December: BRC

Shoppers took to the internet to do more of their Christmas shopping in December, according to new figures from the British Retail Consortium.

In December 2016, 24.3 per cent of non-food retail sales took place online, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor, with sales up by 7.2 per cent compared to the same time last year.

It’s the first time in four months, says the BRC, that ecommerce sales have grown by less than 10 per cent. Online non-food sales grew by 9.5 per cent in December 2016, year-on-year, and in the same period, online contributed 2.9 percentage points to total non-food sales, while in-store sales made a negative contribution of 1.6 percentage points. In December alone, online contributed 2.7 percentage points.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said, “After three months of double-digit growth for online sales, December saw the third slowest growth rate of 2016 at 7.2 per cent. At first glance this may appear a disappointing figure; but with December taking the second highest volume of online sales in the year, after November, this makes it an extremely tough comparable period. So overall, this is a relatively solid performance.

“As with total sales, there was a shift in spending towards the end of the month compared with last year and a slow start to the festive trading period was offset by a spending spree during the Christmas week. Online growth was also driven by Christmas gift purchases, keeping the beauty and toy categories at the top of the growth rankings for a second month.

“Shopping online is becoming increasingly popular during the festive month. The channel won its greatest share of December sales to date, with nearly a quarter of all purchases being made online. No doubt this was partly due to customers being able to receive deliveries right up to the two days before Christmas, thanks to retailers extending their delivery guarantees this year. The penetration rate for online sales now remains above 20 per cent for the fifteenth consecutive month.”

The online figures came as total retail sales grew by 1.7 per cent, year-on-year, and by 1 per cent on a like-for-like basis, which strips out the effect of store openings and closures.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG said, “Online retail sales remained strong in December, with non-food growth up 7.2 per cent compared to last year. Penetration rates also remained high at 24.3 per cent, suggesting that more shoppers felt comfortable logging in than hitting the shops this Christmas.

“Mirroring high street sales, toys, health and beauty products as well as men’s and children’s footwear proved popular this Christmas. Meanwhile, furniture struggled in light of purchases being prioritised elsewhere and women’s footwear slipped and failed to make it to e-checkouts.

“Most online categories noted sales growth in December, which will of course be welcome news. However, whilst the shopping channel continues to grow in popularity, retailers will need to battle with the logistics of fulfilment and the flurry of goods returned post-Christmas. Retailers will be hoping this doesn’t result in too much of a hangover.”