Internet sales Q4 2012 the same as the whole of 2007

The Office for National Statistics (ONS)  published the monthly retail sales figures for December today (pdf) We’ve cut the file down to exclude the 86 pages of tables. The full version is on the ONS site.

The figures are overall described as weak or disappointing and are being blamed for a weakening £ to $ exchange rate.

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Our Internet sales headlines:

  • Overall internet sales in the month were over £4 billion (weekly £830 million) for the first time ever..
  • At 10.6% of all sales following November’s (revised) 10.7% these are the two highest ever recorded % monthly figures.
  • On an annual perspective Internet sales represented 9.3% of all sales up from 8.3% in 2011 and 7.3% in 2010. Sales for this last Quarter at £9.2 billion are the same as the whole of 2007.
  • The decline in the rates of growth of  the major online only retailers noted in previous months seems to be abating somewhat and returned to double digit growth this month. 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 8.2% compared to an  average of over 20% since the statistics were first compiled.
  • Looking forward to this year if recent trends continue annual Internet sales could reach some £33billion and be over 10% of ALL retail sales

December increases:

  • Monthly year on year +15.5%.(+6.6%)
  • Year to date December 2012/2011 + 15.3% (15.2%) again showing some slowing compared with previous historical growth rates.
  • Moving Annual total increases (1) on November 2012 annualised + 23.5% (2) on December 2011 +15.3%
  • The UK’s *largest online retailer is included in the group (Non-store retailing) showing growth of 10.1% on 2011 and contributing  4.1% to the overall growth of 15.5% This is an area which SHOULD just grow & grow) unless further analysis is undertaken of this channel!

As always the “history” has been revised by the ONS which this month went back as far as April 2012 with reductions in both Internet and all retail sales. At a detailed level the negative growth in Non-store retailing noted last month of -0.7% has been revised to +1.3%..

The ONS words are:

Internet Sales

At a Glance

This December, the proportion of sales made online fell at a slower rate between November and December than seen in previous years and were 1.2% higher compared with December 2011.

Although total retail sales were relatively flat, compared with December 2011 more shopping was carried out online in December 2012. In December 2012, Internet sales were 10.6% of all retail sales, a fall of 0.1% from November 2012 but an increase of 1.2% compared with December 2011.

The proportion of sales made online this December did not follow the normal pattern of growth between November and December (see Figure 3). Internet sales usually fall at a much faster rate between these two months than seen this year. Feedback provided by retailers this month suggests that sales made via the internet helped to boost overall sales and provided a much greater proportion of sales in December than they were expecting.

Key points

  •  The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in December 2012 was estimated at £830.3 million, an increase of 15.5% compared with December 2011.
  • The amount spent online accounted for 10.6% 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 72.0% of total spending in this sector up from 68.0% in December 2011. In the food sector 3.2% of spending was online, down from 3.3% 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 December 2012

Weight Year on year Contribution Weekly % all sales
(YoY) growth to YoY growth sales £mn
All retailing  100.0 15.5% 830.3 10.6%
(a) All food 17.3 24.5% 4.1% 103.6 3.2%
(b) All non-food 41.4 19.7% 7.3% 337.0 8.4%
Department stores 7.0 36.1% 2.5% 80.6 9.1%
Textile clothing & footwear stores 11.7 26.3% 3.1% 105.2 10.3%
Household goods stores 8.2 11.8% 1.0% 41.8 6.1%
Other stores 14.5 4.2% 0.7% 89.6 7.4%
(c) Non store retailing 41.3 10.1% 4.1% 389.5 72.0%

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.

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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 £29.0bn an increase in the month (adjusted re restatements and revisions) of 1.97% annualised 23.6%. This breaks the downward trend of the last few months when single digit growth has been recorded. The long term compound average growth rate (from 2007) is just under 25%.

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The published weekly figures at £830.3 million a new record and well above our £800 mn  prediction and we were spot on with our £29.0 billion for the year. January will likely revert to form and a weekly figure of perhaps £575 mn with an annual figure around £bn29.3

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.

Source: All the above  datat is sourced from the ONS statistics.

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