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Top 30 UK Retail Statistics

Bharath Vittal
Bharath Vittal
Jun 17, 2022
5
Min Read

The retail market in the UK, similar to many countries around the world, has experienced tumultuous changes since the pandemic.

Retail sectors that experienced steady growth for over a decade witnessed sporadic declines and recovery between 2019 and 2021. Some areas such as online commerce witnessed accelerated growth, while brick-and-mortar stores experienced declining sales and even closures.

In this article, we look at some important retail statistics for the UK through various periods of the pandemic—pre, during, and post. These statistics give insights into UK retail brand trends that we'll see in 2022.

The growth of the retail market in the UK

Annual retail sales in the year 2020 were below those of 2019 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By the April of 2021, however, the retail sector had recovered (largely due to digital retail), and the total sales were the highest in 15 years by the end of 2021. 

  1. The total value of retail sales in the UK in 2021 was £465.3B.
  2. Retail sales in 2021 increased by 6.5% from £436.7B in 2020.
  3. Retail accounted for 5% of the UK's GDP in 2021.
  4. Nearly 29% of all retail sales made in 2021 were done online.
  5. Online retail sales in 2021 increased by £12.3B from 2020 and £44.2B from 2019.
  6. Online retail sales before the pandemic (at the end of 2018) accounted for just 16% of all retail sales in the UK.
  7. The percentage of retail sales from online channels is projected to be 33.5% in 2025.
  8. In 2008, a little over 50% of British consumers reportedly purchased products online, but in 2020, 87% of British consumers reported using online channels to make a purchase. 
  9. There were over 220K VAT-registered retailers in the UK in 2021, and the number of people employed in retail in the same year was over 3M.
  10. In 2021, there were over 316K retail outlets in the UK.

(Source: Statista and RetailEconomics)

What people in the UK are purchasing online (a breakdown of retail purchases made online in 2020)

The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated the rate of online purchasing in the UK. In 2019, eCommerce accounted for only 17% of retail sales in the UK, and this figure shot up to 24.6% in 2020 (Statista). The following statistics give you an idea of what products were actively purchased online in 2020 by the people in the UK.

  1. 55% of the people in the UK purchased clothes, shoes, and accessories through online stores.
  2. 32% of the people in the UK ordered food online from restaurants, fast food chains, and other F&B establishments.
  3. 29% of the people in the UK bought printed media—books, newspapers, and magazines online.
  4. 28% of the UK's population purchased furniture, home accessories, and gardening products online.
  5. 24% of the people in the UK purchased electronics items—computers, tablets, mobile phones, and accessories online.
  6. 22% of the UK's population bought children's toys or other childcare products online.
  7. 22% of the people in the UK bought cosmetics, wellness, and beauty products through online stores.
  8. 18% of the people in the UK bought cleaning or personal hygiene products online.
  9. 18% of the people in the UK bought consumer electronics (TVs, cameras, music players, home appliances, etc.) online.
  10. 17% of the UK's population bought sporting goods online.
  11. Less than 15% of the people in the UK bought medicines (and other pharmaceutical products), movies and shows, music, store products, or vehicles through online channels.

(Source: Statista)

Impact of consumer behavior on retail

The following statistics elucidate the impact of consumer behavior on the retail industry in the UK.

  1. Nearly 87% of British consumers purchased products online in 2021.
  2. The average spend online per user in the UK was expected to be £1,372 in 2021.
  3. In 2019, B2C eCommerce sales in the UK amounted to £197.1B.
  4. Online purchasing from department stores in the UK had a 157.2% Year-On-Year growth rate in 2020.
  5. Online retailers in the UK experienced a growth of over 50% from 2013 to 2018.
  6. On the flipside, offline retailers in the UK witnessed a growth of less than 10% from 2013 to 2018. 

(Source: Statista and Cyber Crew)

The business side of retail

The pandemic has forced retailers to rethink how they conduct business. Most retailers in the UK have embraced a hybrid model of selling online and offline (brick-and-mortar). The following statistics give you an idea of how retail businesses in the UK have been changing over time.

  1. At the start of 2020, there were 310,120 retail businesses in the UK, and this number increased to 316,400 in 2021.
  2. As of 2020, over 99% of retail businesses in the UK fall under the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) category.
  3. Nearly 59% of all retail businesses in the UK were single-person-led in 2020.
  4. About 35% of all retail businesses in the UK had between 1 and 10 employees in 2020.
  5. Almost 6% of all retail businesses in the UK had between 10 and 100 employees in 2020.
  6. 54 retail companies with multiple stores closed down in 2020 (because of the pandemic). This affected a total of over 5K stores and nearly a 110K jobs.
  7. The rate of vacant retail units, which had been declining from 2013 to 2018, has increased from 12% in 2018 to 15% in 2020. The rate in 2020 is the highest since 2013.

(Source: House of Commons Library and RetailEconomics)

eCommerce by device

The following statistics give you insights into the top UK retail trends broken down by people's preffered choice of technology device.

  1. In 2021, mobile phones were the largest drivers of traffic to retail eCommerce stores in the UK.
  2. Smartphones accounted for 72% of the traffic to online stores, desktops accounted for 24% of the traffic, and tablets accounted for 4% of online store traffic in 2021.
  3. While smartphones were the highest drivers of traffic, conversion rates, and order values were higher for desktops. The average order value (AOV) of online shopping orders in the UK was $125 on desktops, $102 on tablets, and $96 on mobile phones.
  4. In 2019, a little over £33B was generated in revenue from online shopping through mobile phones in the UK.
  5. As of 2020, close to 32% of millennials used mobile wallets or digital payment methods to make a payment.

(Source: Statista and Cyber Crew)

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Analyst turned marketer. Passes the Gen-Z vibe check with his Linkedin writeups. Currently handles Content Strategy and has ambitious plans for the eCommerce community.
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hm.com, operated by H & M Hennes & Mauritz AB, is an internationally-focused online store that generates eCommerce net sales primarily in Germany as well as in the United States and the United Kingdom. With regards to the product range, hm.com achieves the greatest part of its eCommerce net sales in the “Fashion” category.
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