Online sales up as retailers see

The latest statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) have revealed that UK retail sales are growing at the highest level since May 2004 – predominantly driven by online sales.

Retail sales volumes have grown robustly in April, according to the ONS. Compared to the same month a year ago, the quantity of goods bought in the retail industry was 6.9% higher in volume terms, the fastest year-on-year growth since May 2004.

In April, three out of the four main retail sectors (food stores, non-food stores and non-store retailing) saw a year-on-year increase in quantity bought. The fourth sector, petrol stations, saw a fall of 0.7%.

The best performer was non-store retailing, primarily internet sales, where sales volumes grew by 25.1% over the past 12 months. The second fastest growing was department stores, where quantity bought increased by 9.2% compared to the same month a year ago.

Commenting on the figures, John Hawksworth, chief economist at PwC, said: "These are the fastest volume growth rates seen since 2004 and suggest that the wider consumer recovery remains on track. These positive trends reflect a recent return to positive real income growth as well as rising confidence on the back of increased housing wealth."

He added: "Internet sales were running at a rate of over £700 million a week during April and now account for around 11% of all sales. The consumer is going digital across an increasingly broad area of their spending, so retailers that fail to put in place an effective business strategy for the digital age will continue to suffer."

David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said: "This is good news, and supports our belief that the UK economy saw continued growth in the second quarter of this year. However, the UK recovery still needs to become more balanced. Although consumer spending should remain an important part of overall growth, exports and investment should make a greater contribution or there is a chance the recovery could stall."

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