Online sales increased in 2021 – but fell in December as shoppers headed to stores for greater certainty – Industry


Shoppers went to the store to make sure they had their gifts before Christmas. Image: Adobe Stock

Online sales rose sharply in 2021, in a year in which retailers invested heavily in their e-commerce platforms, but fell back in December as online shoppers headed to stores with certainty. , suggest new figures.

Nearly half of non-food retail sales were online in 2021, according to the Monitor, while online sales saw double-digit growth during the year.

How buyers bought in 2021

Online sales of non-food products in full 2021 were 14.3% higher than the previous year, while across all channels retail sales increased 9.9% , according to the latest BRC / KPMG Retail Sales Monitor. They were also 6.6% higher than in 2019.

Sales of food products increased 3.1% during this period, while sales of non-food products were above 15.6% the previous year. And globally, about 46.9% of non-food retail sales were made online during the year. At the same time, in-store sales of non-food products grew 38.4% in 2021 compared to 2020 – but fell a total of 7.7% compared to December 2019.

Helen Dickinson, Managing Director of the British Retail Consortium (BRC), said: “Retailers have weathered tough business conditions well, with retail sales for 2021 up from the previous year and from levels of before the pandemic. Continuing a trend throughout the pandemic towards online shopping, 2021 saw a double-digit increase in non-food online sales, testifying to the huge investments by retailers in their online platforms. However, retail faces significant headwinds in 2022 as consumer spending is held back by rising inflation, rising energy bills and April’s national insurance hike. . They will need continued agility and resilience if they are to weather the coming storm, while also tackling issues from labor shortages to rising costs of transportation and logistics. “

How UK buyers bought in December 2021

In December, some 45% of non-food retail sales were online, according to the BRC. That’s down from 52.5% in December 2020, a month when the second nationwide lockdown ended, but many non-essential retail stores were subsequently closed again as part of multi-level regional measures. .

Online sales of non-food products declined 13.9% from December 2020, while retail sales increased 2.1% overall, from the previous year – when sales increased by 1.8% from 2019. But online sales fell 13.9% that month, a year after foreclosure conditions boosted online sales before Christmas 2020.

Store sales increased 36% overall in the three months to December 2021 and 26.8% on a like-for-like basis, excluding the effect of store openings and closings and operations. In-store sales were also 7.7% lower than in the same period in 2019.

Dickinson says, “Despite the recent Omicron outbreak, retail sales held up until December. Many people have chosen to shop online rather than going to nearby shopping streets and malls. Loungewear was back in fashion as many anticipated the possibility of future restrictions. Meanwhile, the return of advice on working from home and cutting back on Christmas social events has led to a slowdown in formal wear sales. In the face of increasing cases and supply chain issues, the people in retail went out of their way to make sure everyone got what they wanted this Christmas.

And Paul Martin, UK retail manager at KPMG, said the spread of the Omicron variant and updated government guidelines have slowed spending in the last few weeks of the year. Clothing and jewelry continued to dominate Christmas gift shopping at the checkout, while spending on food and drink was strong, although it slowed to just over 1%.

He says, “Consumers kept heading Main Street for their party favors, determined to get the freebies they wanted and not to let online deliveries arrive on time at random. Footwear was the only category online to experience slight growth as overall online sales continued to decline, falling more than 8% in December, albeit from strong comparators in 2020. “

In-store footfall, however, was still 18.6% lower in December than it was two years earlier, in December 2019, according to the latest BRC-Sensormatic IQ Footfall Monitor.

Martin adds, “As we head into 2022, retailers will keep abreast of government updates on Covid-19 and hope that consumer confidence continues to offset the rising cost challenges that they are likely to. to meet in the foreseeable future. Retailers have worked hard to manage factors under their control throughout the pandemic to keep pace with the changing environment, but there are many macro factors beyond their control that could affect them this year. With many retailers cautiously optimistic for 2022, focusing on the continued reengineering of their business models, ensuring they operate resilient supply chains and tightly contain costs will be top priorities. “

Susan Barratt, Managing Director of Grocery Analyst IGD, said: “Food and beverage sales performed strongly in December 2021 and returned to year-over-year growth. This is particularly impressive given the exceptionally strong sales recorded in December 2020 and indicates that many buyers have taken advantage of being able to celebrate Christmas this year with their family and friends. “


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