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UK online retail industry receives £23bn Q1 boost

UK online shoppers spent an estimated £23.1 billion during the first quarter of 2014, according to the latest e-Retail Sales Index from e-tail trade body IMRG and consultancy group Capgemini.

The research indicated that it was the strongest Q1 growth in three years, with sales during the three-month period up 17% year on year. In March alone, Britons reportedly spent approximately £7.8 billion online – up from £6.7 billion in March 2013.

Marks & Spencer and Signet-owned H Samuel and Ernest Jones are among the UK retailers to have reported a significant jump in online retail sales over the last few months.

IMRG and Capgemini's study showed that a number of key retail sectors experienced encouraging year-on-year sales growth in the first quarter, with accessories jumping 34%, footwear rising 22%, health & beauty growing 23% and home & garden up 21%.

Average basket value, excluding online travel industry sales, hit £86 in March, which was the highest rate recorded by the index since September 2013, as well as being up £9 on last year.

Sales via mobile devices in March were up 53% year-on-year, or 65% excluding the travel sector. Conversion rates have also reportedly improved significantly over the last 12 months.

Chris Webster, vice president and head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini, commented said that this month's index is a good indicator of the current strength of the UK economy.

"It is interesting to see that spending over the last three months was not limited to just one sector or the result of one particular influence," he explained.

"Rather, Britons are in good spirits, have regained confidence in the economy and using online as a means to spend across the board. The sustained high conversion rate in March also demonstrates the huge strides retailers have made in their online platforms and are continuing to focus on improving the customer experience."

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