E-commerce sales grew by 46% in 2020, compared to the previous year – the strongest increase since 2008. Within that, online food sales saw the greatest increase, growing by 79.3%, according to Office for National Statistics.
Overall retail sales fell by 1.9%
However, overall retail sales, across all channels, fell by 1.9%, by volume. As COVID-19 restrictions kept non-essential stores closed. Clothing was hard hit. Sales across all channels fell by a record 25.1% on the previous year, as shoppers spent less time socializing. In addition, when they were able to go to shops they were not able to try clothes on. Only non-store retailers (+32%) and food (+4.3%) retailers showed overall sales growth – both at record levels – during 2020. Fuel sales fell by a record 22.2%, while department stores (-5.2%) and other stores (-11.6%) also saw their overall sales fall.
Online multichannel retailers led e-commerce growth
Online, multichannel retailers led e-commerce growth, which came as non-essential stores were forced to close against the spread of COVID-19. Meanwhile many customers turned online rather than venture out even to essential stores during the pandemic. Online household goods sales grew by 73.9%, while online department store sales were 65.9% ahead. ‘Other’ stores, from electronics retailers to jewellers, bookshops and toyshops, saw their online sales grow by 73.4%. However, pureplays, and other non-store retailers, saw sales grow by 32% – the largest annual increase the category has seen.
In December alone, e-commerce sales grew by 61.4%, compared to December 2019. It accounted for 29.6% of sales – but were down by 6.2% compared to the previous month of November.
The growth came as sales across all channels grew by 2.9% year-on-year, by volume. Shoppers spent 0.4% more than they did in November to buy 0.3% more goods. Clothing had a good month compared to the previous one, as shoppers spent 23.7% more to buy 21.5% more goods.
Online food sales grew by 126.4%, with 11% of all grocery sales taking place through e-commerce. This was also the only category where online sales grew compared to the previous month (+2.6%). Retailers, says the ONS, suggested there had been a Christmas increase in click-and-collect sales over the festive period.