Chart of the day: the rise of the online shopping

The internet now accounts for 10.7 per cent of all retail sales

The latest retail sales figures have been released by the Office for National Statistics, and they are generally bad news. Year on year, there has been recovery in the sector, with sales up 3.2 per cent in value terms and 1.0 per cent in volume terms, but in the short term retail sales fell 0.8 per cent in volume terms and 0.4 per cent in value terms between January and February, worse than expected. The ONS also revised down its January figures.

David Kern, Chief Economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said:

A fall in sales in February was widely expected following the relatively strong figures seen in December and January.

The poor weather in the first week of the month could have hindered the retail market, so these figures should not cause undue concern. Longer-term comparisons show that while the growth in sales remains in positive territory, the pace of expansion is modest. The value of sales has risen by more than 3 per cent over the past year, which is mainly due to inflation. If hikes in energy and food prices persist, this could create new obstacles to a sustained recovery in retail trade and in consumer spending in general.

Although non-store retailing (internet and mail-order shopping) is growing long-term as our headline chart shows, it too has suffered a weak February. Month-on-month, it shrank by 0.4 per cent, the biggest decline since August last year, and its annual growth, although easily outstripping offline retail, was "only" 8.6 per cent, the lowest year-on-year growth since November 2010. The proportion of sales made via the internet alone is estimated to have been 10.7 per cent of the total (excluding fuel, which remains tricky to buy online).

Price inflation in food stores rose to 3.9 per cent from 3.5 per cent last month, raising questions about the extent to which falling inflation (or "disinflation") will aid consumer demand as was predicted. The FT reports:

Simon Hayes, an economist at Barclays Capital, said he expected the pressure on real household disposable income to ease this year and consumption to strengthen. “However, falling inflation is a key element of our forecast that consumption will pick up, and recent upside news on consumer prices puts a question mark over the degree of support from this direction."

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Show Hide image

We're hiring! Join the New Statesman as an editorial assistant

The NS is looking for a new recruit.

The New Statesman is hiring an editorial assistant, who will work across the website and magazine to help the office run smoothly. The ideal candidate will have excellent language skills, a passion for journalism, and the ability to work quickly and confidently under pressure.

The job is a broad one – you will need to understand the requirements of both halves of the magazine (politics and culture) as well as having an interest in the technical requirements of magazine and website production. Experience with podcasts and social media would be helpful.

The right person will have omnivorous reading habits and the ability to assimilate new topics at speed. You will be expected to help out with administration tasks around the office, so you must be willing to take direction and get involved with unglamorous tasks. There will be opportunities to write, but this will not form the main part of the job. (Our current editorial assistant is now moving on to a writing post.)

This is a full-time paid job, which would suit a recent graduate or someone who is looking for an entry into journalism. On the job training and help with career development will be offered.

Please apply with an email to Stephen Bush (Stephen. Bush @ with the subject line ‘Editorial Assistant application’.  

In your covering letter, please include a 300-word analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of the New Statesman. Please also include 500 words on what you consider to be the most interesting trend in British politics, and your CV as a Word document. 

The deadline for applications is noon on Monday 12th October.