Online retail surge boosts festive trading as UK high street feels the heat, Worldpay reports

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 UK retailers saw bumper online sales over the Christmas trading period but experienced more challenging conditions on the high street, according to analyses from payments processing company Worldpay.

Electronics retailers emerged strongest from the Christmas period seeing an overall 3% upswing across all channels in 2015. This growth was driven by strong online sales, up 33% year on year, which more than off-set a 3% drop in bricks and mortar transactions.

Meanwhile, unseasonable weather in December has been identified as one the factors contributing to a 3% overall year on year decline in clothing and footwear sales during the period. Department stores fared slightly better, with overall sales up 2% year on year – boosted by a 19% rise in online purchases during the period.

A wave of last-minute purchases saw 23 December emerge as the busiest day for Christmas shopping. According to Worldpay, UK consumers spent over £850m on everything from earrings to iPads.

Many UK retailers reported their biggest online day ever on Black Friday, with ecommerce sales up by an incredible 30% compared to 2014. The boost helped total sales on the day, across all channels, to rise by 5% on the previous year. In-store spending was down by 2% on the day as many major retailers switched their sales strategies to favour online-only discounts.

Worldpay’s data suggests the growing importance of Black Friday and more general heavy-discounting in the run-up to Christmas is having a saturating effect on UK shoppers, which retailers felt during the traditional Boxing Day sales, when overall spending fell by 2% year on year.

Dave Hobday, UK managing director, Worldpay, said: “2015’s Christmas shopping period has brought into focus the challenges retailers face in adapting their strategies to accommodate fundamental changes in the retail landscape.

“Whilst consumers aren’t about to stop pounding the high-street at Christmas, when it comes to seasonal sales, evidence suggests the emphasis will continue to shift online. Consumers will favour retailers they believe offer convenience, reliability and choice. Increasingly this means seamless integration between online and in-store channels. Any retailer not headed in this direction is going to find itself cast as a ghost of Christmas past.”

Global data from Worldpay indicates the general shift in consumer shopping habits over the Christmas period is not just a UK phenomenon. Online transactions on 26 December were up 58% across Europe, and 63% worldwide compared to 2014.