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2020 Was the Worst Year Ever for Retailers but Online Sales Soared 46.1%

By Emily Peagram 22 Jan 2021

Figures released today (Friday 22nd January) by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) make grim reading for retailers, revealing a slump of -1.9% in the volume of sales during 2020 when compared to 2019. That is the largest year-on-year fall on record. In contrast, the value of online sales played its part in preventing an even greater disaster, up 46.1% compared to 2019.

The home delivery expert ParcelHero says that the results also reveal that the tills did ring out for Christmas this year, but largely online.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks MILT, says: ‘The ONS retail figures for December show that the volume of goods bought last month was up just 0.3% on November, unimpressive considering stores were reopened following lockdown in November.

‘Once again, however, home deliveries helped save the day. E-commerce gained 29.6% of all retail sales for the month. Online sales were up an eye-popping 61.4% compared to December 2019 with online food up 126.4% YOY. Brits largely feasted on turkey and trimmings bought online this Christmas.

‘The surge in online food sales in December simply reflects a year-long trend. With their online sales up by 79.3%, food stores reported the largest sector increase for the entire year.

‘You have to look hard through these figures to see any sign of a merry Christmas for High Street retailers, but there was one glimpse of hope. December’s online sales actually fell back -6.2% compared to November. The reopening of physical stores after Lockdown 2 in November did encourage shoppers back to the High Street in early December for a brief flurry of shopping.

‘In January 2017, ParcelHero released 2030: Death of the High Street, a high-profile report that was discussed in Parliament. We said that, unless retailers developed an omnichannel approach that embraced both online and physical store sales, the High Street as we know it would reach a dead-end by 2030. These latest ONS retail figures show that the coronavirus pandemic has only hastened its demise.

‘Ultimately, these latest results reveal that, whatever the time of year, no retailer can afford not to maintain a balanced approach to in-store and online sales, as the pandemic continues to rage and the fortunes of physical stores yo-yo between lockdowns.

‘Only stores that embrace their website as their most important shop window and ensure their online service matches the standards of their in-store experience will survive. Read the full report at:

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