Britons splashed £93billion on online shopping in 2020 alone – up from £64billion in 2019, a United Nations study has revealed.
In total, 23.3 per cent of all retail sales were online in the UK last year, marking a rise on the 15.8 per cent seen one year prior.
Globally, 19 per cent of all shopping was done online in 2020, according to estimates from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) based on national statistical offices in major economies.
Britain came in third at 23.3 per cent with the US at 14 per cent.
Online sales made up almost a fifth of global spending in 2020 as lockdowns caused a surge in internet shopping, a United Nations study has revealed (file image)
This included business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) sales, and was equivalent to 30 per cent of global economic output that year.
The pandemic led to mixed fortunes for leading B2C e-commerce companies in 2020, according to the report.
Data for the top 13 e-commerce firms – 11 of which are from China and the United States – showed a notable reversal of fortunes for platform companies offering services such as ride hailing and travel, which saw sharp declines in gross merchandise volume.
The report read: ‘For instance, Expedia (EXPE.O) fell from 5th place in 2019 rankings to 11th in 2020, Booking Holdings (BKNG.O) from 6th to 12th and Airbnb (ABNB.O), which launched its initial public offering in 2020, from 11th to 13th.’
China’s Alibaba remained atop the rankings by GMV, followed by Amazon in the United States.
China’s Alibaba remained atop the rankings by GMV, followed by Amazon in the United States (file image)
It follows reports that British retail sales rose by seven per cent in March.
Shoppers spent an overall 7.3 per cent more over the period of February and March, in comparison to last year in a boost for the economy.
The office for National Statistics (ONS) published the figures which show that sales rose by 5.4 per cent in March alone.
And it was clothes that Britons splurged the most on, with garment-buying up by 17.5 per cent.
Spending went up 7.3 per cent in a year and jumped up 5.4 per cent on the previous month as shoppers splurged on clothes ahead of lockdown being eased
The leap in sales came in the weeks leading up to lockdown restrictions being eased, allowing people to move around the country and start going back to work.
As well as clothing, other non-food related items also saw a huge jump, at 13.4 per cent.
Garden centres and flower shops also rose at 7.4 per cent as Brits still stuck indoors continue to work on their gardens.
Petrol station sales jumped too, as travel restrictions throughout the UK lifted.
In contrast, online sales dipped by from 36.2 to 34.7 per cent, but were still significantly higher than the 23.1 per cent figure for last year.
Brits hit high street stores as lockdown rules eased. Online sales for March dipped slightly in comparison to February but were still higher than last year
Clothes-buying saw the biggest jump in sales with a 17.5 per cent increase in the lead up to re-openings on April 12
Food also saw a rise of 2.5 per cent, particularly butchers and bakers, which the ONS put down to a closure of the hospitality sector.
The roadmap out of lockdown in the four home nations: Where are they now, and what’s coming next?
Latest lockdown easing – From March 29 up to six people from different households have been able to meet outdoors and you can enjoy most outdoor sports. Non-essential retail opened from April 12.
What’s coming next? – May 17 will see easing of international travel restrictions as well as the return of indoor mixing. On June 21, all legal limits on social distancing will be axed.
Latest lockdown easing – From (April 5) barbers and hairdressers have been allowed to reopen alongside garden centres and homeware stores.
What’s coming next? – From April 26, beer gardens and gyms will be allowed to reopen. From May 17, cinemas will open their doors again and four people from two households can meet indoors.
Latest lockdown easing – From March 27 ‘Stay local’ rules were scrapped and travel allowed within its borders. Six people from different households can meet indoors.
Travel between Wales and the rest of the UK have been allowed from April 12 and all non-essential shops were allowed to open.
What’s coming next? – From April 26, outdoor hospitality will be given the green light. Indoor mixing will be allowed from May 10.
Latest lockdown easing – From March 8 children in pre-school, nursery and primary one to primary three have been allowed back to the classroom.
What’s coming next? – Non-essential retail is set to open from April 30.
The statistics have market experts hopeful for a strong economic year ahead and watching out keenly at next month’s numbers.
Consumer Markets Leader at PwC Lisa Hooker said: ‘Much though these figures will give cheer to the whole sector, retailers will be hoping that these positive signs translate into a sustained return to the physical stores as they reopen across the UK over the course of April.
‘The real test of whether pent-up demand can be turned into actual sales will come with next month’s figures.’
Until shops re-opened on April 12 – which saw an even bigger boost of sales – the figures show that spending for February and March was the biggest jump since June last year.
After shops opened, retail sales jumped 87.8 per cent in just one week.
Retail experts hailed the week as ‘outstanding’ for the sector.
Diane Wehrle, Insights Director at Springboard commented: ‘The first week of reopening delivered an outstanding performance for UK retail destinations and stores, with an increase in footfall from the week before that was virtually double our forecast.
‘These results provide concrete evidence of the desire of shoppers to return to bricks and mortar stores and destinations.
‘The key issue for retail destinations will be whether this momentum can be sustained. From our evidence of the last two lockdowns, we are expecting footfall to continue to increase over the next few weeks, albeit at a lesser rate.
‘However, the reopening of indoor hospitality on 17th May will provide a further boost to retail destinations as many indoor venues are located in high streets and shopping centres.’
Head of Retail at Accenture UK & Ireland, Lynda Petherick told the BBC: “After a year of what’s felt like endless lockdowns, there is now a palpable sense of excitement among retailers and shoppers alike.”
But she warned that retailers must stay ‘strategic’ in striking a balance between in-store shopping and online.
She added: ‘Though retailers will be keen to capitalise on the return of shoppers to the High Street, they must also strike a balance across both their physical and digital offering, or risk losing out to competitors that learned strategic lessons from the pandemic.’