UK high street sales slump as online rises- ONS

ONS retail statistics reveal December’s High Street retail figures slumped to their biggest fall for over four years, while online sales rose 21.3 per cent.

This seems to confirm earlier suggestions that the peak of Christmas shopping has moved to November.
Online sales in December were 21.3 per cent up on the same time in the previous year – but they were also down by 5.3 per cent on November. That suggests a major change towards the now huge influence of Black Friday and Cyber Week on Christmas spending in 2016.

Overall, said the Office for National Statistics’ Retail Sales report for December 2016, some 15 per cent of retail spending took place online last month.

Across the retail industry, shoppers spent 5.4 per cent (5.1 per cent excluding fuel) more than they did a year ago, and bought 4.3 per cent more goods, by volume, than last year. Across the industry value (-1.3 per cent) and volume (-1.9 per cent) of goods bought were also lower in December than in November.

The bulletin covers the period from November 27 2016 to December 31. The ONS says that estimates of Black Friday spending are not included – falling in November instead – but those for Cyber Monday, the first Monday in December, were.

Kate Davies, ONS senior statistician said, “Retailers saw a strong end to 2016 with sales in the final quarter up 5.6 per cent on the same period last year, although the amount bought fell between November and December once the effects of Christmas are removed. There were some notably strong figures from smaller retailers, in particular butchers, who reported a significant boost in sales in the run up to Christmas.”

Focusing on online spending, department stores saw sales grow by 8.6 per cent to account for 13.1 per cent of all spending in the category, textile clothing and footwear stores saw 5.5 per cent sales growth (13.1 per cent of retail spending), food stores saw 17 per cent growth (5.4 per cent), household goods saw 19.3 per cent growth (9.8 per cent), and other stores saw sales grow by 25.1 per cent, to reach 8.1 per cent of all spending.