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Online sales help drive January's retail revival

20 February 2012 - 15:23 by Graham Miller

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The e-commerce market was once again responsible for helping the UK's retail sector increase sales year on year last month, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The latest figures show that £640.4 million was being spent via safe shopping online each week throughout January, which accounts for almost 12 per cent of all retail sales across both e-commerce and high street outlets when you remove fuel from the equation.

At the start of 2011 the equivalent weekly spend was significantly lower at £462 million, which indicates just how much online shopping has expanded over the past 12 months.

Sales in the retail industry as a whole grew by a modest two per cent in January, but the real terms value of the sales was up by a more positive 4.4 per cent.

In a statement the ONS said that it was safe shopping online, not bricks and mortar retailing, which mostly contributed to this growth in January.

Bad news for the high street retail sector was published by PricewaterhouseCoopers last week after it stated that more stores were closed in 2011 than those that opened, indicating a marked decline in the number of outlets across the UK.

It had been two years since a similar state of affairs had occurred, although this was admittedly during the peak of the recession in 2009 and not in a period of fragile recovery.

Many retailers are beginning to rely on e-commerce in order to remain competitive, because consumers are increasingly seeking value for money and convenience in their shopping experience.

Analysts believe that consumer confidence was improved in January as people found themselves better able to spend some money, although it looks as though online shopping was the conduit for more of this cash than ever before.