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Retail Sales in Great Britain Bounced Back in February

Ecommerce’s share up again

March 24, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

After two consecutive months of declines, retail sales in Great Britain rebounded in February, with seasonally adjusted sales volume up 1.4% over January and 3.7% higher than February 2016, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Despite those gains, the three-month sales volume average ended in February fell by 1.4%, matching January’s three-month average dip—the largest decreases since March 2010 and only the second three-month decline since December 2013.

Average store prices (including fuel) increased by 2.8% compared with a year earlier, representing the largest gain since March 2012. Gas stations contributed most to that rise with year-on-year average prices up by 18.7%.

“February’s retail sales figures show fairly strong growth, though the underlying three-month picture shows falling sales as February’s figures follow two consecutive months of decline in December and January,” said Kate Davies, ONS’ senior statistician. “The monthly growth in February is seen across all store types. The underlying trend suggests that rising petrol prices in particular have had a negative effect on the overall quantity of goods bought over the last three months.”

Retail ecommerce sales (excluding automotive fuel) were a particular bright spot, up 3.3% over January and 20.7% greater than a year earlier. Ecommerce accounted for approximately 15.3% of all nonfuel retail spending for the month, up from 13.3% in February 2016.

Retail Ecommerce Sales Growth in Great Britain, by Product Category, Feb 2017 (% change vs. same period of prior year)

Ecommerce growth was spread among ONS’ major retail categories. The “nonstore retailing” category, which includes ecommerce pure plays in addition to market stalls and other retail types without fixed locations, grew the fastest vs. a year earlier, with sales value rising 26.6%. Household goods stores were a close second, with ecommerce sales value up 23.1%.

On average, consumers in Great Britain spent £1.0 billion ($1.35 billion) on retail ecommerce purchases each week in February 2017.

eMarketer expects UK retail ecommerce sales to rise 12.0% in 2017 to £77.74 billion ($104.93 billion) and represent 18.8% of total retail sales for the year.

Cliff Annicelli

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