Revamped March Internet Sales up by 15%

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It’s the third Thursday Friday (because we had some holidays early in April!)  of the month so the Office for National Statistics (ONS)  have just published the monthly retail sales figures for March (pdf).

Overall the figures are quite a bit higher than expected with the good weather and some panic fuel buying getting most of the credit!

Our Internet sales headlines are:

  • Revamped figures no longer experimental – yipeee!
  • March increases: Year on year +15.2%. Quarter to March 2012/2011 + 13.5% Moving Annual total increases (1) on February 2012 annualised + 15.0% (2) on March 2011 +15.6%
  • The UK’s *largest online retailer included in a group (Non store retailing) showing 23% growth on 2011 and contributing 9.4% to the overall growth of 15.2%

There has been a complete revision to their Internet sales and the good news is that they are no longer “experimental”. More detail is included and there has been a complete restatement  of the historic figures. We have incorporated these revisions in our graphs/charts. (As an indication of the changes previously February’s weekly internet sales were stated to be £573.6 million – this is now £475 million! We are still getting to grips with the new basis and may expand on our eventual conclusions. At this stage we have a feeling they in general show the same trends but likely with a slow down in recent growth rates.)

The ONS say:  “Internet sales

The experimental label for Internet sales has now been removed and a new set of statistics has been made available. These include by sector:

  • non-seasonally adjusted value indices
  • year-on-year growth rates
  • average weekly Internet sales in pounds million
  • Internet sales as proportion of all retailing

All data for these statistics can be found in the RSI tables March 2012 and are labelled with the code ISCPNSA. To ensure that Internet sales are consistent with retail sales the estimation method used for Internet sales has been changed to ratio estimation instead of an expansion estimator (see A quick guide to retail sales). As a result, the back series for Internet sales as a proportion of all retailing has been revised.

Key points:

  •  Internet sales values (non-seasonally adjusted) in March 2012 increased by 15.2 per cent compared with March 2011.
  •  Internet sales are now estimated to account for 8.5 per cent of all retail sales values excluding automotive fuel.
  •  The non-store retailing sector has the largest proportion of Internet sales in March 2012 and now accounts for 59.9 per cent of all sales in this sector, up from 54.9 per cent in March 2011.
  • The food sector has the lowest proportion of Internet sales which now accounts for 3.1 per cent, up from 2.8 per cent.
  •  The average weekly value of Internet sales in March 2012 (non-seasonally adjusted) is estimated to be £484.0 million, up from £475.0million in February 2012.

Internet sales in detail

The Internet sales statistics measure how much has been spent online through retailers in Great Britain. Figures are non-seasonally adjusted and the reference year is 2008=100. The table below shows the year-on-year growth for total Internet sales, each sector and the contribution that each sector makes to total Internet sales.

Category Weight Year on year Contribution
(YOY) growth to YOY growth
All retailing 100.0 15.2%
(a) All food 17.3 15.3% 2.6%
(b) All non-food 41.4 7.6% 3.1%
 Department stores 7.0 14.8% 1.0%
 Textile clothing & footwear stores 11.7 27.0% 3.1%
 Household goods stores 8.2 16.4% 1.3%
 Other stores 14.5 -15.6% -2.3%
(c) Non store retailing 41.3 22.7% 9.4%

Update (We have added our annotations to the ONS table) – The bold categories/ figures in the table are the primary constituents of the total (ie (a) + (b) + (c) = All retailing). Dept. stores, Textile etc, Household etc and Other stores are simply an analysis of (b) All non-food.

* Whilst the ONS will not confirm the names of specific retailers within categories they did say that retailers selling wholly online with no physical outlets would be included in the Non store retailing category along with eg online  mail order retailers.

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The moving annual total, which we now also report, moved up again (it has increased EVERY MONTH since October 2007) to an all time high of £25.8bn an increase in the month (adjusted re restatements and revisions) of 1.25% annualised 15%. This is below the long term compound average growth rate (from 2007) of 26%.



Our forecast for March was overtaken (undertaken!) by the restatements and we very provisionally hope for a weekly figure of over £500 million in April with the 12 month moving average increasing to possibly £26.2bn.

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We have again included our experimental graph (e & o e!) showing the relative internet and non-internet, moving annual total, sales from late 2007 by month. As before it highlights that high street sales have been and continue to go nowhere! As, we have mentioned before, the Boston Consulting Group forecast  in their report (The $4.2 Trillion opportunity) that this trend is likely to continue with the high streets market share contracting at around 2.75% a year from 2010 through 2016.

Further details and explanations are either in the ONS release on the statistics or on their website. As previously mentioned a retail convention of a 4, 4, 5 week quarter is used by the ONS. To cater for the inconvenience of years not having 364 days every 6 years or so an extra week is included in the statistics. The ONS adds this in January and the last one was in 2008 which explains the exceptional figure of £1.1bn monthly Internet sales which would otherwise have been £0.9bn!

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