Internet sales at 16.1% of all retail sales (excl. food)

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

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The overall figures had been expected to show a rise of some 0.5% so the decrease of 0.6% was greeted with disappointment by most serious commentators although, yet again, the weather has to take some of the blame!

Our Internet sales headlines:

  • Internet Food sales at 3.7% of all food sales was a record beating Novembers 3.4% by a margin
  • If Food is excluded Internet sales (we calculate) represent some 16.1% of all sales in January. The difference an uplift of just under 60% has remained remarkably constant since these statistics were first compiled by the ONS.
  • Internet sales were over 10% of all sales for the third consecutive month
  • The ONS note that online food sales whilst at 3.7% have in sector terms the lowest proportion of all sales this 3.7% is a record.
  • The decline in the rates of growth of  the major online only retailers noted in previous months at 9.1% wasn’t as incredible as last years August and November figures of 2.7% and MAY be readjusting to around 10% compared to an  average of over 20% since the statistics were first compiled. 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)

January increases:

  • Monthly year on year +8.7%.(+16.2%)
  • Moving Annual total increases (1) on December 2012 annualised + 7.3% (2) on January 2012 +14.8%
  • The UK’s *largest online retailer is included in the group Non-store retailing and this sector shows growth of 9.1% on 2012 and contributing  3.7% to the overall growth of 8.7% 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 January 2012 with changes to both Internet and all retail sales. The maximum change was a 1% decrease in both August’s and September’s internet sales.

The ONS words are:

Internet Sales – Key Points

  • This January, the overall proportion of non-seasonally adjusted online sales remained above the 10% mark, normally seen during the lead up to Christmas, which was 8.7% higher compared with January 2012.
  • The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in January 2013 was estimated at £546.5 million. This is an increase of 8.7% compared with January 2012.
  • The amount spent online accounted for 10.1% 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 68.1% of total spending in this sector, up from 67.2% in January 2012. In the food sector 3.7% of spending was online, up from 3.0% a year earlier. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spend in relation to all spending but stands at record levels.

Internet sales in detail

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 2 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 2: Summary of Internet Sales Performance for January 2013







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.

Sector summary

All Food …..though overall sales for this sector were down, non-seasonally adjusted data show that online sales in these stores were up 27.1% in January 2013 compared with January 2012. (At 3.7% of sales) This was the largest proportion of online sales made in the food sector on record.

The non-store retailing sector comprises of stalls and markets, mail order and those retailers that sell mainly online.

* 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 £29.1bn an increase in the month (adjusted re restatements and revisions) of 0.61% annualised 7.9%. This reverts to the downward trend of three of the previous six months when single digit growth has been recorded. The long term compound average growth rate (from 2007) is a little under 25%.

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The published weekly figures at £546.5 million was lower than we expected (£575) as was the moving annual total at £29.1 billion where we were ;looking for £29.3 billion.

February is usually the weakest month in the year but we are hoping for a Valentine & Chinese New Year boost pushing the weekly figure up by over 15% to £565 million ish which should drive the annual figure to £29.4 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 (January is a 4 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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