E-tail experts raise online sales growth forecast for 2016

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Online sales for 2016 are growing at a faster rate than predicted in spite of the continuing economic uncertainty facing the UK, according to data from IMRG and Capgemini.

Growth for online retail sales is currently running at +15.1% year-to-date (Jan-Sep) against the same period in 2015, 37.3% ahead of the original start-of-year forecast of 11%.

With only three months of data still to come this year, the IMRG-Capgemini annual forecast for 2016 has now been revised to +15%.

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The strong growth is likely to continue into the final quarter of this year, as shoppers look to make purchases before 2017 starts – due to many retailers reporting that they will hold off on increasing prices in line with rising inflation until after Christmas.

In addition, Black Friday in 2015 was notable for being largely characterised as an online event – with shops in many regions receiving lower-than-expected levels of footfall on the day as people made their purchases digitally – and this shift of purchasing behaviour to online may have extended into 2016.

The Brexit vote also appears to have had little negative impact on online sales growth – with Q3 2016 (Jul-Sep) recording growth of +17% – which was the highest quarterly growth since Q1 2014.

Justin Opie, managing director at IMRG said: “The last time we recorded a declining trend in annual growth rates was between 2010 and 2012, but the emergence of tablet devices reversed that – extending the times and locations in which people could browse retail sites and making 9pm a new daily peak as people used them on the sofa in front of the TV.

“It may be that smartphones are now helping to provide a similar boost – sales growth for these devices has been very strong over the past year or so, up 82.8% year-to-date (Jan-Sep) while for tablets it is just 5.5%.”

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