UK shoppers helped propel e-commerce revenues to a record £58.8bn last year, according to the latest figures from the IMRG.
The retail group’s year-end studies show that UK sales did not disappoint, despite a very cold snap at the end of the year.
December saw a seven per cent increase over November, and an impressive 25 per cent increase since the previous year. The £58.8bn figure represented an 18 per cent rise against 2009.
The numbers show that the average UK shopper spent £111 online in December, despite delivery issues and fulfilment problems owing to the inclement weather. The IMRG said that the impending VAT increase may also have had an impact on sales.
“December saw an incredible jump in online sales as a result of the weather conditions, and it’s reassuring to see that, despite the delivery problems, consumer confidence was not affected,” said IMRG chief executive James Roper.
Shoppers flocked online to escape the cold and drove up typically unexciting areas like the clothing market, which saw sales rise by 40 per cent year over year, the strongest in 18 months.
This increase helped companies like John Lewis to set several trading records over the Christmas period.
“We’ve had an outstanding Christmas and clearance period in 2010, and there’s no doubt that johnlewis.com was a vital part of that success,” said Jonathon Brown, head of online selling at the department store.
“Online sales for the five weeks to 1 January 2011 were 42 per cent up on last year, and it was particularly pleasing to have achieved several trading records.”
The effect of the VAT increase was confirmed by payment firm PayPoint.net, which found that, although sales have not dropped off the scale since the rise, they have slowed down.
“The increase in VAT undeniably softened spending at the beginning of this year compared to January last year, but overall it’s encouraging to see online retailers showing resilience in what remain very uncertain times,” said PayPoint.net managing director Michael Norton.
The firm said that sales in the first week of January 2009 increased by a third against the previous week, but had slowed to just 15 per cent this year.