Strong growth for online shopping in the UK in December

online retail

UK consumers embraced online shopping in a big way this Christmas, new figures showed today.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said that sales over the Internet in December 2012 increased by 17.8% compared with the same month a year earlier. This fell just short of the growth seen a year ago, when online sales grew by 18.5%, but was the highest rate of growth recorded in 2012.

Helen Dickinson, the new director general of the BRC, said that consumers are increasingly taking advantage of the convenience offered by online shopping at every stage of the buying process, from comparing prices to reserving and collecting in-store.

Despite the strong growth in purchases made online, they still represented only around 10% of total sales. Overall, Christmas 2012 fulfilled the retail sector’s rather low expectations given the continued tough economic conditions.

According to the latest Retail Sales Monitor report from the BRC and professional services firm KPMG, UK retail sales values increased by 0.3% on a like-for-like basis from December 2011, when they were up 2.2% on the preceding year. On a total basis sales grew by 1.5%, against a 4.1% rise in December 2011. The sales growth was on a par with December 2010, when severe weather impacted on trading for much of the month.

David McCorquodale, head of Retail at KPMG, pointed out that the total and like-for-like rises were lower than inflation and described the Christmas 2012 trading as “a flat end to a flat year.”

Looking ahead, McCorquodale cautioned that January will be a tough month for retailers as consumers take a fresh look at their spending after Christmas. The challenging conditions are expected to continue in 2013 as consumer confidence remains low, he added.

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