Shift to ecommerce is set to stay as 28% of all retail sales remain online

The shift to ecommerce is set to stay, as 27.8% per cent of retail sales in February were still made online, despite shoppers confidence returning as the final Covid-19 restrictions were dropped.

The latest data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that, while online sales continued their “broad downward trend” – hitting the lowest proportion since March 2020 – ecommerce still accounted for over a quarter of all UK retail sales.

When viewed over a longer period, the proportion of retail sales being made online has more than tripled in the past decade – it accounted for just 9.2% of all sales in February 2012.

This indicates a permanent shift towards online, driven primarily by the focus on ecommerce over the past two years.

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Despite the increased consumer confidence in visiting physical shops and shopping centres, the pandemic has “clearly changed consumers’ shopping habits”, agrees Maxim Syn, head of desk at global financial services firm, Ebury.

Syn also points to the fact that around “one in 10 people now get their groceries online”, adding that “the proliferation of ecommerce sites shows the continued demand for online shopping”.

“We saw an explosion of businesses set up online during the pandemic to meet consumer demand and for many this has become an established way to trade,” he said.

“Businesses that stick to selling through traditional physical sites risk losing out on a quarter of potential buyers. Retailers have a huge opportunity to capitalise on the transition to online through their own sites and using ecommerce platforms.

“Maximising internet sales will be a significant catalyst for retail growth over the coming decade and businesses need to ensure they are well-prepared for this.”

As supply chain difficulties look likely to persist, Syn added that online retailers should “ensure they have flexible partners, avoid currency risk and support with bespoke lending solutions”.

“Businesses with stock in place and ready-finance to maintain supplies are likely to be the winners in what is shaping up to be a turbulent year for retail.”

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