Covid-19: UK online sales reach record high in March

Online sales as a proportion of all retailing reached a record high of 22.3% in the UK in March, demonstrating a huge shift to eCommerce by consumers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is according to new ONS data released today.

The boost in online shopping was observed across most retail categories, representing an overall year-on-year increase of 12.5%. The highest growth rate took place in household goods stores, at 51.8% year-on-year. This was followed by department stores, at 33.7%. Unsurprisingly, there was a significant increase in the amount of food purchased online, at 19.7%. The only category which saw a reduction in online sales over this period was textile, clothing and footwear stores, by -4.4%, a sector that is experiencing much lower levels of demand at this time due to people staying indoors.

The ONS figures covered the period from 1 March to 4 April 2020, and therefore included the first two weeks of the UK government’s Covid-19 lockdown measures. Despite the growth in eCommerce, the figures paint a bleak picture for the retail industry as a whole, showing a 5.1% plunge in sales volume for March, which is the largest fall since ONS records began back in 1996. Aside from eCommerce, grocery was the only area of retail to see a growth in sales, at 10.4%.

In recent weeks, a number of stores have reopened their online and delivery channels following changes to working practices in line with government guidance. Some physical stores have started online trading for the first time as retailers adapt to this new environment.

Commenting on the findings, Ed Whitehead, Managing Director EMEA, Signifyd,  said: “At a fundamental level eCommerce technology is allowing retailers to maintain or pivot operations, as we have seen with a few high street retailers including Next and Arcadia who have effectively become pure play online retailers whilst their stores remain closed and online becomes their sole sales channel.”

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