IBTimes UK

Online sales in the UK rose to a record high in December, with almost one in five non-food items sold during the Christmas season was purchased over the internet.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said online sales of non-food items rose 19.2% year-on-year in December, the highest growth in four years. Online penetration rate in December was 18.6%.

"Online sales surged in December representing almost one in five items sold, proving that retail sales growth is being driven by the click of a mouse, rather than the ring of the tills," David McCorquodale, head of retail at accountants KPMG that assists in the BRC survey, said in a statement.

"This Christmas we've seen innovative retailers using click and collect and other approaches to make a virtue of both their website and their physical shops," said Helen Dickinson, BRC director general.

"The surge in the use of tablets and smartphones last year, together with the ever-faster delivery times achieved by an increasing number of retailers, has provided a new spur of growth to online shopping."

As more and more people go online for purchasing, shunning traditional stores, many high street retailers expanded their internet offerings. The increasing use of smartphones with the internet access is also contributing positively to the growth of online retailing.

Overall Retail Sales Growth Slows

The BRC noted that total retail sales increased by 1.8% in December, the lowest growth in 2013. Sales growth was 2.3% in November.

On a like-for-like basis that adjusts for changes in retail floor space, UK retail sales were up 0.4% in December, compared to 0.6% increase in November.

The decline in growth rate reflects the recent slowdown in sales and consumer confidence, according to the BRC.

"This is a respectable result overall, in line with our prediction that Christmas trading in 2013 would reflect that while confidence levels were higher than the previous year, this wasn't always matched by more money in pockets," said Dickinson.

"With budgets still under pressure, many shoppers economised where they could to afford a little luxury here and there, and practical gifts such as bedroom furniture, children's clothing and kitchen appliances also proved popular."

Analysts noted that the recent trend in the retail sector would prompt many merchants to bolster their multi-channel offerings to avoid further loss.

"The new year will lead retailers to invest more in multichannel capabilities and many will use the quieter first quarter to do just that, or face the prospect of losing out further," McCorquodale added.