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ONS figures show uptick in online spending last month

27 March 2018 - 09:09 by Graham Miller

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Consumers in the UK spent more online than expected in February this year, according to stats from the Office for National Statistics.

Reuters reports that the small 0.8 per cent growth in the nation’s retail spending was largely catalysed by e-commerce activity, along with the strong performance displayed by supermarkets.

Analysts pointed out that although this may seem to suggest that the market is in good shape at the moment, it is important not to overlook that January was a slow month and the cold weather continued to keep people away from bricks and mortar outlets.

Interestingly, this improvement in February was greater than expected, with economists predicting a much more meagre 0.4 per cent rise in sales.

Consumers are being hit by price increases at the moment, with a 2.5 per cent rise reported last month compared with the same period in 2017. This means that there is a real need to use shopping online to get the best deals on essential items.

The Bank of England reported last week that wages in the UK are growing at their fastest rates for almost three years, which should help to offset some of the impact of higher prices.

Another factor which makes February’s sales figures look positive is the fact that both Maplin and Toys R Us have hit tricky financial waters and look set to create yet another shake up on the high street. This shows the extent to which online shopping has become essential to propping up sales when bricks and mortar growth falls short.

The ONS figures tend to be less optimistic than those of other institutions, including the British Retail Consortium. But in the current climate, any sign of growth is to be welcomed, however slight it might be.