Online continue to blitz pre-pandemic levels despite reopening of non-essential retail

Online sales figures have surprised analysts and risen 62 per cent in March compared with last year according to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Online sales took just 23.1 per cent of the UK’s entire retail spend during the first lockdown last March, that figure climbed to 34.7 per cent of consumers’ overall spend this year.

There was a rise in ecommerce sales last March after non-essential retail closed down and consumers switched their spending habits to adapt to restrictions.

Many predicted that with the promise of non-essential retail reopening this month, online sales figures would drop below the levels seen last year.

While footfall figures skyrocketed 80 per cent during the first week non-essential retail opened, there are indications that store shopping was still down 25 per cent on pre-Covid levels.

Home delivery company ParcelHero says shoppers continued to spend their money online instead of waiting for bricks-and-mortar retailers to open up at the beginning of April.

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“Shoppers ignored the siren call of the high street and continued to spend online rather than save their money for ‘real’ stores in April,” ParcelHero’s head of consumer research David Jinks said.

“Online sales boomed by 0.6 per cent this March over the previous month. This was the largest monthly online sales growth since June 2020, with retailers suggesting that the upcoming easing of lockdown restrictions had encouraged people to ditch joggers in favour of smarter clothes for reunions with people they hadn’t seen for months.”

The value of all sales in March grew 5.5 per cent in March when compared with February, surprising analysts who were expecting a slump in ecommerce due to the opening of non-essential retail in April.

“Of course, March’s retail figures are just the warm-up act. High Street retailers are really waiting for the ONS retail figures for April, when they are released next month,” Jinks added.

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