Online retail sales in December saw the third slowest growth rate of 2016, after three months of double-digit growth.
According to the latest BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor, online sales of non-food products in the UK went up by 7.2 per cent in December compared to a year earlier, when they had increased by 15.1 per cent.
This was the first growth below 10 per cent since August, and it was also below the three-month average of 9.5 per cent and the 12-month average of 10 per cent.
British Retail Consortium (BRC) chief executive Helen Dickinson said that while this “may appear a disappointing figure”, it was actually a “relatively solid performance” given the circumstances.
“With December taking the second highest volume of online sales in the year, after November, this makes it an extremely tough comparable period,” she said.
She added that the slow start to the festive trading period was offset by an online spending spree in the week leading up to Christmas, driven by gift purchases – especially items in the beauty and toy categories.
“Shopping online is becoming increasingly popular during the festive month,” Dickinson said.
“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.”
In December 2016, online sales represented 24.3 per cent of total non-food sales in the UK, compared to 22.6 per cent in December 2015.
KPMG head of UK retail Paul Martin said this suggested “more shoppers felt comfortable logging in than hitting the shops this Christmas”.
“Most online categories noted sales growth in December, which will of course be welcome news,” he added.
“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.”