A very merry online Christmas

A very merry online Christmas

UK retail sales rose by 0.1% on a like-for-like basis from December 2014, when they had decreased 0.4% from the preceding year.

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A very merry online Christmas
  • UK retail sales rose by 0.1% on a like-for-like basis from December 2014, when they had decreased 0.4% from the preceding year. On a total basis, sales were up 1.0%, against a 1.0% rise in December 2014.
  • Adjusted for the BRC-Nielsen Shop Price Index deflation, total growth was 3.0%.
  • Total growth was above the 3-month average of 0.9% but weaker than the 12-month average of 1.7%.
  • Total Food sales grew 0.2% over the three months to December and 0.3% over the twelve months. On a three-month basis, total Non-Food sales were up 1.5%, the weakest growth since January 2013.
  • Online sales of Non-Food products in the UK grew 15.1% in December versus a year earlier, when they had grown 7.0%. The Non-Food online penetration rate was 19.7%, up 2.4 percentage points from December 2014.

Helen Dickinson, Chief Executive, British Retail Consortium, said: “2015 drew to a disappointing close for retailers, with December seeing just 1 per cent sales growth, notwithstanding the strong underlying momentum of an improving consumer environment buoyed by rising real incomes, low inflation and low unemployment. Online performed strongly as consumers embraced the convenience and flexibility that more sophisticated retailers offered. Nevertheless, the boost from online was not enough to make this a Christmas to remember for most retailers. The three month rolling total sales across all categories was the weakest for the entire year, with only 0.9 per cent growth, while non-food saw its slowest performance since January 2013.

“Looking at the year as a whole, the strongest performing categories include those related to the home, supported by a robust housing market, renewed strength in mortgage approvals and a generally healthier appetite among consumer for credit. With price deflation and offers aplenty, the current retail climate is great news for consumers, however retailers are not benefiting from the improved economic climate in the same way that other sectors have done. This is in part due to changing consumer shopping habits and the rising cost of doing business for retailers such as business rates and the national living wage due to be introduced in April. The Government has a prime opportunity in March’s budget to help UK retailers continue to drive growth in the economy and create new jobs by reducing the disproportionate burden of business rates and keep going with its structural review.”

David McCorquodale, Head of Retail, KPMG, said: “Despite a number of positive economic indicators, retail sales over Christmas were relatively flat with more products on discount and the depth of discounting also deeper.

“Although retailers tried to tame Black Friday 2015, it still had a significant impact on the shape of sales over the festive season, spreading spend over six weeks rather than two. Fashion sales were the losers in December as mild weather deferred the need and wet weather deferred the inclination to try and buy a new winter outfit.

“The grocers had a fairly admirable Christmas with total food and drink sales back in the black for the first time since September in spite of the persistent price deflation in the sector.

“December’s star performer was Home Accessories as consumers “decked the halls” with baubles and fairy lights to get into the festive spirit. Children’s Toys also had a good month as Santa delivered to “those who’d been nice” on Christmas morning.”

Food & Drink sector performance – Joanne Denney-Finch, Chief Executive, IGD, said: “Shoppers took Christmas food and drink spending even closer to the wire, but despite lower prices eventually came through to deliver a small annual increase. People have become experts at hunting down value, benefiting from more ways to shop in-store and online, but will treat themselves when offered the right combination of convenience, price and quality.

“Propensity to spend is increasing. A quarter of shoppers anticipate focusing more on quality this year when buying their groceries, compared with a fifth planning to put more emphasis on saving money. This is the first time since our survey began in September 2010 that the pendulum has swung in favour of quality.”


The BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor measures changes in the actual value (including VAT) of retail sales, excluding automotive fuel. The Monitor measures the value of spending and hence does not adjust for price or VAT changes. If prices are rising, sales volumes will increase by less than sales values. In times of price deflation, sales volumes will increase by more than sales values.

Retailers report the value of their sales for the current period and the equivalent period a year ago. These figures are reported both in total and on a ‘like-for-like’ basis.

Total sales growth is the percentage change in the value of all sales compared to the same period a year earlier. The total sales measure is used to assess market level trends in retail sales. It is a guide to the growth of the whole retail industry, or how much consumers in total are spending in retail – retail spending represents approximately one-third of consumer spending. It is this measure that is often used by economists. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of total sales.

'Like-for-like' sales growth (LFL) is the percentage change in the value of comparable sales compared to the same period a year earlier. It excludes any spending in stores that opened or closed in the intervening year, thus stripping out the effect on sales of changes in floorspace. Many retailers include distance sales as a component of like-for-like comparable sales.

The like-for-like measure is often used by retailers, the city and analysts to assess the performance of individual companies, retail sectors and the industry overall, without the distorting effect of changes in floorspace.

Online (including mail order and phone) sales of non-food are transactions which take place over the internet, or via mail order or phone. Online sales growth is the percentage change in the value of online sales compared to those in the same period a year earlier. It is a guide to the growth of sales made by these non-store channels. It should be noted that online sales are still a small proportion of total UK retail sales. Estimates based on ONS figures show about 10 per cent of total UK retail sales (food and non-food) are achieved via the internet.

The responses provided by retailers within each sales category are weighted* (based on ONS weightings) to reflect the contribution of each category to total retail sales, thus making it representative of UK retail sales as a whole. Because the figures compare sales this month with the comparable period last year, a seasonal adjustment is not made. However, changes in the timing of Bank Holidays and Easter can create distortions, which should be considered in the interpretation of the data.

As well as receiving sales value direct from the retailers in the scheme the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor also receives food and drink sales value data from the IGD's Market Track Scheme.

In its role as sponsor of the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor, KPMG is responsible for the aggregation of the retail sales data provided by the retailers on a weekly basis. This data consists of the relevant current week’s sales data and comparative sales figures for the same period in the prior year. The aggregation has been performed by KPMG on data for periods following 2 April 2000 and equivalent prior periods. The accuracy of the data is entirely the responsibility of the retailers providing it. The sponsorship role has been performed by KPMG since 10 April 2000 and the same for the aggregation of comparative sales figures for the period from 2 April 2000 it is not responsible for the aggregation of any data included in this Monitor relating to any period prior to 2 April 2000.

* The aggregation of data for the weighted ‘online’ figures has been performed by the BRC and KPMG for periods starting 25 November 2012 and equivalent prior year periods. Prior to that date, the online figures in this monitor refer to the unweighted non-food non store indicator, as published in the BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Monitor until July 2013.

The commentary from KPMG is intended to be of general interest to readers but is not advice or a recommendation and should not be relied upon without first taking professional advice. Anyone choosing to rely on it does so at his or her own risk. To the fullest extent permitted by law, KPMG will accept no responsibility or liability in connection with its sponsorship of the Monitor and its aggregation work to any party other than the BRC.

© Copyright British Retail Consortium and KPMG (2014). The contents of this report and those of all ancillary documents and preparatory materials are the sole property of BRC and KPMG and are not to be copied, modified, published, distributed or commercially exploited other than with the express permission of BRC or for the purposes of journalistic comment and review. All rights reserved.Covering the five weeks 29 November – 2 January 2016

Media enquiries please contact:

British Retail Consortium

21 Dartmouth Street London SW1H 9BP

T: +44 (0)20 7854 8900


Media: T: +44 (0)207 854 8924


KPMG 15 Canada Square London E14 5GL

T: +44 (0)20 7311 1000


Jessica Liebmann

T: +44 (0)207 311 3245

M: +44 (0)7551 135 778


The January 2016 Monitor, covering the four weeks 3 January – 30 January, will be released at 00.01am Tuesday 9 February 2016.

The data is collected and collated for the BRC by KPMG.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) is the UK's leading retail trade association. It represents the full range of retailers, large and small, multiples and independents, food and non-food, online and store based.Sponsored and Administered byKPMG LLP, a UK limited liability partnership, operates from 22 offices across the UK with approximately 12,000 partners and staff. The UK firm recorded a turnover of £1.9 billion in the year ended September 2014. KPMG is a global network of professional firms providing Audit, Tax, and Advisory services. It operates in 155 countries and has 162,000 professionals working in member firms around the world. The independent member firms of the KPMG network are affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative ("KPMG International"), a Swiss entity. Each KPMG firm is a legally distinct and separate entity and describes itself as such.Food Data Supplied byIGD makes a difference by providing international market intelligence, supply chain best practice and consumer insight to the food and grocery industry worldwide.We work with consumers, companies and individuals across the chain to provide authoritative information, insight, thought leadership and leading edge best practice to help companies grow their business and develop their people.Detailed weekly data by category is available to retailers who contribute to the monitor:If you would like to participate in the Retail Sales Monitor, please contact:

Anne Alexandre

T: +44 (0)207 854 8960


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