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5 facts about online retail sales in the UK

We analyse how online retail sales are changing the shape of business and household expenditure.

Higher rate of men than women buy goods and services online, but the gap is narrowing.

In 2008, more men than women were purchasing online, a difference of 8 percentage points. By 2015, this gap reduced to 2 percentage points.

Both men and women have increased their internet purchasing throughout the period, with the percentage of men purchasing online having increased from 57% in 2008 to 77% in 2015 whilst the percentage of women purchasing online increased from 49% in 2008 to 75% in 2015.

Source: ONS, Internet Access – Households and individuals 2015, Table 10: Internet purchasing, by age group, sex and disability status, 2008 and 2015.

63% of women and 52% of men who don’t buy online prefer to shop in person in 2015.

The preference to shop in person was the leading reason for not buying goods or services online. The second highest reason for not purchasing, for both sexes at around 26%, was payment security or privacy concerns.

Source: ONS, Internet Access – Households and individuals 2015, Table 17: Reasons for not buying goods or services over the internet for personal use, by sex and disability status, 2015

69% of 55 to 64 year olds bought online in 2015 (45% in 2008)

Despite a decline between 2014 and 2015, the proportion of 55 to 64 year olds that purchased goods and services online increased from 45% to 69% between 2008 and 2015.

42% of 55 to 64 year olds purchased clothes or sports goods, the most popular category purchased online in 2015.

Source: ONS, Internet Access – Households and individuals 2015, Table 10: Internet purchasing, by age group, sex and disability status, 2008 to 2015. Table 12: Purchases made over the internet, by age group, sex and disability status, 2015.

In 2014, November was the month with the highest level of online retail sales as a proportion of all retailing, at 14%.

The second highest month in 2014 was December at 13%. The proportion of sales in November increased from 2013 when it was 12%.

Although November has the highest proportion of online sales, December has the highest volume of online sales. In 2014, out of all retailing, the average weekly online sales in November were £992 million sales, whilst in December weekly online sales were £1,065 million.

Source: RSI, ISCPNSA3, Internet sales as a proportion of all retailing, (all retailing excluding automotive fuel)

Food stores have the lowest proportion of their sales total occurring online, at 4%.

Whilst food stores had the lowest proportion of sales occurring online, non-store retailing (internet sales along with market stalls, auction houses, etc.) had the highest. Food stores had the lowest proportion of sales online between 2008 and 2014.

Source: RSI, ISCPSA3, Internet Sales Index: Value seasonally adjusted internet sales as a proportion of all retailing.

Estimates from the Retail Sales Inquiry and the E-commerce Survey are different, because they are measuring completely different concepts.

The E-commerce Survey measures sales over a website, regardless of who the sales are to. So, the estimates for the retail sector from the E-commerce Survey relate to total sales through a website made by businesses classified to the retail sector (that is, division 47 of the SIC). These sales will be all sales through a website, not just retail sales through a website, whereas the Retail Sales Inquiry just measures retail sales, defined as sales to the general public for household consumption.

Therefore, estimates from the Retail Sales Inquiry and the E-commerce Survey are not directly comparable, and where comparisons are made, they should be treated with a great deal of caution. The methodology and coverage of the 2 surveys is also very different, so aside from the conceptual issues, the different methods could be expected to give different results.

Categories: Business and Energy, Businesses, Structure of Businesses, People and Places, People, Culture and Sport, Internet and ICT
Content from the Office for National Statistics.
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