Internet & Technology sales boost all retail sales

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

The overall figures were significantly better than expected with the forecast being of a 0.4%-0.5% increase in sales volumes against the actual of 2.1% These are the best figures in almost a year. Online sales together with tablets and other technology sales got much of the credit as did a lack of snow!

Our Internet sales headlines:

  • Internet sales continue to exceed 10% of all retail sales for the year to date
  • All internet sales excluding food dropped to 15.4% this month. The difference of this to all sales remains at  an uplift of just under 60%.
  • Online food sales at 3.6% of all food sales continue at record levels again.
  • The decline in the rates of growth of  the major online only retailers noted in previous months seems again to be recovering and was at a healthy 17.5% this month. It looks as if it is readjusting to around 10% -15% 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 (Isme Very, Littlewoods etc)

February data:

  • Year to date internet sales of all retail sales 10.0% (10.4% revised*)
  • Monthly year on year increase +10.1%.(+11.9% revised*)
  • Moving Annual total increases (1) on January 2012 annualised + 8.1% (2) on February 2012 +14.6%
  • The UK’s *largest online retailer is included in the group Non-store retailing and this sector shows growth of 17.5% on 2012 and contributing 7.7% to the overall growth of 10.1% 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 quite large changes Internet sales last mont going up by just under 3%.

The ONS words are:

Internet Sales – Key Points

  • The average weekly spend online (Internet sales values non-seasonally adjusted) in February 2013 was estimated at £540.5 million. This is an increase of 10.1% compared with February 2012.
  •  The amount spent online accounted for 9.7% 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 64.6% of total spending in this sector. In the food sector 3.6% of spending was made online up from 3.3% in February 2012. This sector has the lowest proportion of online spend in relation to all spending.

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

Table 2: Summary of Internet Sales Performance for February 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.

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Sector summary

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.

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 £29.4bn an increase in the month (adjusted re restatements and revisions) of 8.1% annualised 14.6%. This continues the downward trend of four 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 £540.5 million was lower than we expected (£565) but with all the revisions*  the moving annual total was as we forecast at £29.4 billion With Easter being comparatively early this year we hope the strong online and technology trends continue so are hoping for a weekly figure of £570 million with YTD retail sales again above 10% with a moving average of £29.75 billion.

Click to enlarge

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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