UK showing 'impressive' online retail sales growth

Online sales of non-food products in the UK jumped up by 13.4% in September compared to the same month last year, according to new research from the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and KPMG.

Data released by the retail trade body and the business advisory firm indicated that online sales represented 17.5% of total non-food sales – the highest penetration rate this year. If online sales were taken out of the equation, the clothing and footwear sector would have actually shown a decline during the month.

Although lower than in August, online sales growth in September was deemed "more impressive" due to the tough comparison with last year. The BRC said that online sales contributed 1.3 percentage points to the growth of non-food total sales last month.

It is the first time the BRC and KPMG have published detailed online sales data to accompany their wider retail sales monitor, and this will now continue each month. Helen Dickinson, director general at the BRC, said that September's figures show it was a "fascinating month" to start its analysis of web sales.

"The online penetration rate, or share of the market, reached a record level in September," she explained.

"This highlights the growing importance of understanding online sales and the need for the BRC-KPMG Online Retail Sales Monitor's robust new data. To succeed today, retailers are investing not only in an outstanding product offering but also in ever-evolving ways to reach customers in the online world."

Data from the online sale monitor also goes to underline how important it is for the UK fashion industry to have a strong end to 2013, after what has been a tricky year so far.

Honor Westnedge, senior retail analyst at research firm Verdict, told Essential Retail that unseasonal weather and heavy use of discounting and promotions held the sector back in the first six months of 2013. She argued that utilising eCommerce, which has evidently become a major sales driver for fashion retailers, will be an important part of the sector's business strategies in the months ahead.

"Online is continuing to play an even more important part in driving expenditure in the sector with convenience, choice and fantastic delivery options making the online experience easier and more enjoyable – this is particularly evident among male clothing shoppers," Westnedge explained.

"In 2013 we forecast the online channel will represent 14.3% of the total UK clothing and footwear market, highlighting the importance of investing in the channel and how it must work alongside stores to support a retailer’s physical presence."