Covid-19: ONS figures show online sales hitting new highs in May

Online retail sales continue to gather momentum as a result of Covid-19 with growth of nearly 20% in May pushing the channel to now account for a record 33.4% of total retail sales.

According to figures from the ONS for May this significant online growth helped overall retail sale volumes rebound with growth of 12% compared with the record falls experienced in April. However, sales are still down by 13.1% from February before Covid-19 impacted the industry.

The ability to trade online has been the saviour of many businesses as the ONS figures reveal that 32.8% of retailers who have an online service, and have continued trading, report an increase in online sales.

Clothing has been a particularly interesting category because although such retailers saw a decline in online trading in April – because of many companies pausing trade – a number of businesses began to trade online in May, helping to drive a monthly increase of 25.2%.

Richard Lim, CEO of Retail Economics, commented: “A seismic shift towards online pushed this channel to new heights. Retailers have been working tirelessly to boost their online capacity to cope with this intense period of demand. Those with the most flexible operating models and who have been fleet-of-foot are retaining customers and reaching out to a new wave of online converts. Many consumers are shopping for products they had previously only ever purchased in a shop. This shift in behaviour will inevitably be sticky for a large proportion. The critical question retailers will be asking themselves is how long-lasting the shift will be.”