Internet sales at record high but growth continues to slow

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Today is the third Thursday of the month so The Office for National Statistics (ONS)  have just published the monthly retail sales figures for November (pdf) We’ve cut the pdf down to exclude the 86 pages of tables. The full version is on the ONS site.

The overall figures have been given a negative reception as they show no increase and are below most forecasts

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Our Internet sales headlines:

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  • Overall internet sales are at 10.8% of all sales which is the highest ever recorded % figure
  • A somewhat unbelievable decline in the monthly year-on-year rates of growth of  the major online only retailers which goes negative for the first time in recorded history. These figures include the online sales of all the majors ie  Apple, Google, eBay, Amazon (including LoveFilm), Asos, Netflix and Shop Direct (Very, Littlewoods etc) plus others but since August the average  growth rates has been only 7.7% compared to an  average of over 20% since the statistics were first compiled. Our friends at the ONS are looking into this & hopefully will find a reason which might be some recategorisation somewhere!.
  • We’re not going to make our hoped for £10 billion quarter and may be nearer £9 rather than £9.5bn but there’s still time to go online & order all those tablets readers and other phones NOW!
  • Weekly sales were well over the £700 million level as expected and with your help could still rise to near £800 million in December for the first time ever!

October increases:

  • Monthly year on year +8.1%.(+12.2%) growth still well below historic averages
  • Year to date November 2012/2011 + 15.5% (16.5%) again showing some slowing compared with previous historical growth rates.
  • Moving Annual total increases (1) on October 2012 annualised + 9.1% (2) on October 2011 +15.7%
  • The UK’s *largest online retailer is included in the group (Non-store retailing) showing negtative growth of -0.7% growth on 2011 and contributing  -0.3% to the overall growth of 8.1% This is an area which SHOULD just grow & grow)!

As always the “history” has been revised by the ONS which this month went back as far as November 2011 with some mainly marginal changes.

The ONS words are:

Internet Sales (Headlines)

 Key Points

The estimated proportion of retail sales made online in November 2012 (Internet sales, non seasonally adjusted) increased by 1.4% compared with October 2012 and increased by 0.5% compared with November 2011. The estimated average weekly spend online in November 2012 was £711 million compared with £658 million in November 2011.

 Key figures

In November 2012, Internet sales (online sales for all retailers) were estimated to be 10.8% of all retail sales. This is a rise from 9.4% in October 2012 and 10.3% in November 2011. This is the highest proportion of online sales since the series began in November 2006, (it should be noted that the peak in internet sales usually occurs in November with the proportion falling in December). Feedback from retailers suggests that this increase is a result of their investment into their internet sites, as well as promotions held online only and not in store.

Across all retailing an estimated £7.3 billion was spent weekly in November 2012 and in November 2011, therefore consumers spent approximately the same amount in retail this year as they did last. However, looking at the average weekly spend online, weekly spend was estimated at £711 million in November 2012 compared with £658 million in November 2011. This indicates that while consumers continued to spend approximately the same amount as they did last year, this year they spent more online and less in store.

Internet Sales (details)

 Key Points

  •  The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in November 2012 was estimated at £710.9 million, which was an increase of 8.1% when compared with November 2011.
  • The amount spent online was estimated to account for 10.8% of all retail spending excluding automotive fuel.
  • As expected, more was spent online in the non-store retailing sector than any other sector. Spending online now accounts for 67.4% of total spending in this sector down from 70.4% in November 2011. In the food sector 3.3% of spending was spent online, up from 3.1% a year earlier. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spend in relation to all spending.

Internet sales measure how much was spent online through retailers in Great Britain. Figures are non-seasonally adjusted and the reference year is 2010=100. Table 3 shows the year-on-year growth rates for total Internet sales, by sector and the contribution that each sector makes to total Internet sales.

Table 3, Summary of Internet Sales Performance for November 2012

Category Weight Year on year Contribution Weekly % all sales
(YoY) growth to YoY growth sales £mn
All retailing  100.0 8.1% 710.9 10.8%
(a) All food 17.3 12.0% 2.1% 97.4 3.3%
(b) All non-food 41.4 19.2% 7.9% 280.4 8.9%
Department stores 7.0 27.2% 1.9% 60.4 9.5%
Textile clothing & footwear stores 11.7 25.6% 3.0% 101.1 11.2%
Household goods stores 8.2 22.9% 1.9% 39.9 6.4%
Other stores 14.5 5.7% 0.8% 79.0 8.2%
(c) Non store retailing 41.3 -0.7% -0.3% 333.1 67.4%

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. We have also added the sector information provided for weekly Internet Sales.

* 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.

As previously mentioned the figures are no longer experimental.


The moving annual total, which we report, moved up again (it has increased EVERY MONTH since October 2007 being the first full year of reporting by the ONS) to an all time high of £28.5bn an increase in the month (adjusted re restatements and revisions) of 0.76% annualised 9.1%. This is now the fourth consecutive month when single digit growth has been recorded and it continues to be well below the long term compound average growth rate (from 2007) of 25.8%.


The published weekly figures at £710.9 million was quite a bit down on our  prediction of £750 million and we were £0.3 billion below the annual figure. Optimistically we are looking for a weekly figure of over £800 billion to set another first time ever record which will imply a moving annual toatal over £29.0 billion

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 (December is a 5 week month). 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.

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