Five questions answered on December’s record online shopping figures

What caused the boom in online sales?

Amazon.
The Amazon warehouse in Swansea. Photograph: Getty Images.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) today said online shopping figures in December had reached a record high. We answer five questions on this festive online shopping boom.  

By how much did internet shopping grow in December?

According to the BRC, and accountants KPMG, who conducted the research, there was a 19.2 per cent growth in internet purchases from December 2012. This is the fastest increase in online sales in the last three years.

What’s responsible for this boom in online sales?

The Director General of the BRC Helen Dickinson said sales in December were boosted by “innovative retailers” using different approaches to make use of both their online presence and physical shops, with things such as ‘click and collect’.

Fast deliveries and social media have also boosted online sales.

Cyber Monday has become popular in the UK where online retailers offer big discounting online on the first Monday of December. According to the BBC, it has been estimated that £300,000 was spent online every minute on this year's Cyber Monday.

What else has the BRC said?

Dickenson added: “Overall, this result meets expectations and draws to a close what has been a year of encouraging but fragile recovery. Retailers will be hoping that a good response to new ranges coupled with a continuing boost from post-Christmas sales events gets 2014 off to a promising start."

What items sold the best online?

In December, online sales represented almost one in five items sold. According to the BRC, health and beauty and clothing had a strong finish to the year, while other non-food was the strongest contributor to sales growth in December and the fastest-growing category in 2013.

Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 19.2 per cent in December versus a year earlier, the highest growth in four years.

About these figures, David McCorquodale, Head of Retail at KPMG said: “Online sales surged in December ... proving that retail sales growth is being driven by the click of a mouse, rather than the ring of the tills.

“The food sector remained the most competitive, with slowing inflation, discounting and price wars testing customer loyalty. Today's savvy consumer is happy to shop around for a bargain.”

How did this online boom affect supermarkets?

Supermarkets faired badly this Christmas with many reporting falling like-for-like sales figures, most notably Morrisons who over Christmas did not offer online shopping.

Like-for-like sales for the chain fell 5.6 per cent in the six weeks to 5 January, while Tesco's like-for-like sales were also down by 2.4 per cent during the Christmas period.

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