Ecommerce August Update: Online UK Retail Statistics

The ONS has published the statistics for ecommerce performance within the UK for July, which was always going to be an interesting period for online retailers and the high street.

As you can see in the chart below, the online sales as a percentage of total retail was on a slight rise from June – 26.4% as opposed to June’s 26.2%. This still remains higher than pre-pandemic online usage, which was 19.1% back in February 2020.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/timeseries/j4mc/drsi

The overall retail sales volume fell 2.5% between June and July. However, this is 5.8% higher than pre-pandemic levels in February 2020.

Food stores also saw a dip in sales volumes – though only by 1.5%. This was likely to happen as June had Euro 2020s where people will have been buying food, drink and BBQ supplies. Non-food retail stores sales volume fell 4.4% compared to June.

Clothing store sales volumes dipped 2.%, as did household good stores. Department stores were the only sector which had an increase – although it was only 0.2%. Automotive fuel sales volumes decreased 2.9% over the month. There was high rainfall in early July, which meant there was less traffic on the road. Compare this to pre-pandemic figures, and the automotive fuel sales volumes are 6.7% lower than February 2020.

Overall retail sales volumes over May, June and July were up 11.1% on the previous year, and July volumes were 2.4% higher than the previous year. However, last year we were in the midst of lockdowns and other restrictions due to COVID-19.

https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/bulletins/retailsales/july2021

When looking at online retail specifically, the online spending values increased by 0.3% in July compared to June. Department stores and food stores were largely responsible for this.

The proportion of retail sales online rose to 7.9% in July – up from 27.1% in June. Before the pandemic, February 2020 was at 19.8%, so this is still higher.

Now that September is here, and there seems to have been a lack of a “true” summer despite the lift in restrictions, we will in for an interesting Autumn and Winter. With virtually no restrictions in place, most business are now operating as normal, though perhaps with some caution.

No doubt a lot of shoppers will use the newfound trust and experience shopping online to get Christmas shopping out of the way earlier, and without constantly heading to the high street. People are still wary of crowds, and winter is never a good time for flu, whatever the variety. As most people will not have had a major summer holiday, we may see more Winter breaks or changed activities. With some families restricted or even isolated from each other last Christmas, no doubt we will see some go big this time around.

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