Online retail market to reach £77bn in 2012

The value of the UK's online retail market is set to grow by £77 billion this year, according to figures by the Interactive Media Retail Group (IMRG).

The forecast places the UK online sales market second to the US in terms of market value.

According to IMRG, the UK online market remains competitive and attractive to consumers in the EU, with 30 per cent of all cross border trade in Europe currently going through UK retailers. This means the UK exports more than the rest of Europe's e-retailers combined.

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) said the outlook 'further strengthened the UK's position as a global leader' in online sales.

With 228,000 online retail businesses operating in the UK last year, IMRG's managing director John Andrews said online retail was a 'big business' which could see the number grow to 1.5 million by 2015.

The £77 billion expected from the online retail sector over the coming year indicates a slight slowing of growth at 13 per cent, compared to 14 per cent recorded for the previous year, and 20 per cent for the year 2011/12.

Last year, strong performances came from the clothing, health and beauty, alcohol and home and garden sectors, with consumers spending an estimated £76bn shopping online.

Electrical items, gifts and travel products bought online fared less well. While online clothing sales have consistently performed well, sales have in fact slowed over the past few months.

Sales via mobile devices also gained momentum, growing from 0.4 per cent of e-retail sales at the start of 2010, to 5.3 per cent this year. IMRG found 2.6 per cent of visits to e-retail sites were through mobile phones in 2010, increasing to 8.2 per cent in 2011.

IMRG's CEO James Roper said: "With the on-going global economic downturn and the UK slipping back into recession in 2012, it can be difficult to find genuine signs of positive growth in business but the e-retail market continues to deliver it.

"Over the 12 years that our Index has been measuring the market we've seen over £360bn spent at UK online retailers, and the industry is on track to record double-digit growth again this year.

"This puts UK retailers on an excellent footing to expand into cross-border markets as e-retail becomes more and more international to the benefit of people all over the world."

Online retail will be one of the main topics of discussion at the British Business Embassy on 9 August, where 3,000 business leaders will be invited to explore ways of boosting business in the UK.