Local shops thrive despite Christmas online stampede

shopOnline retail sales soared by 52.2% throughout December but still fell just short of overtaking in-store sales, meaning the first truly “eChristmas” has yet come to fruition with shoppers staying local and physical stores living to fight another day.

According to the latest data from Barclaycard, overall consumer spending throughout December dropped by 2.3% compared to 2019 despite the major online surge, marking the largest decline since June.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, supermarkets emerged as the big festive winners as shoppers stocked up on food and drink ahead of the seasonal break. Physical supermarket shopping jumped 14.7% but online grocery spend rocketed by 88%.

In the wider retail market, in-store spending fell 8.3%, while ecommerce sales jumped 52.2%. However, they still missed the magic number, accounting for less than half (46.8%) of all retail spend.

Specialist retailers like toy stores and gift shops, alongside fashion retailers, also saw significant online growth, increasing 61.9% and 34% respectively.

Local shops also enjoyed a boost, with specialist food and drink retailers like butchers recording a 43.7% rise, although retailers largely reliant on footfall – such as the beleaguered department store sector – saw a drop of 15.2%.

Barclaycard head of consumer products Raheel Ahmed said: “Changing restrictions continue to have an impact on our spending habits – which was particularly acute across the high street and hospitality sectors in December, with restaurants, pubs and bars hardest hit during a low-key festive season in the majority of the UK.

“As a result of further restrictions, online grocery spend surged and fuel declined as the majority cancelled their plans and stayed home for the holidays.

“Many still continued to support their local shops where possible, spending more time in their local community.  Small businesses have continued to remain agile to these changing consumer habits – with many going online for the first time. From dog walking services to subscriptions of weekly meal kits, small businesses are exploring new ways to reach their customer base.”

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