Ecommerce grew in March compared to the same time last year – except in the food and household goods categories, new official figures suggest.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) Retail Sales report for March 2019, found that online sales grew by 12.4% compared to the same time last year, and by 8% compared to last month. They accounted for 18.6% of all retail sales that took place during the month – up from 18.1% in February 2019.

But while the textile, clothing and footwear (+11.8% year-on-year (YOY) and +18.6% month-on-month (MOM)) and other stores (+22.7% YOY, 6.1% MOM) categories both saw strong growth, the picture was different in food (-1.5% YOY, -2.5% MOM) and household goods stores (-1.7% YOY, -5.8% MOM). Non-store retailers – mostly made up of pureplays but also including market traders and auction houses – saw their sales grow by 23% YOY and by 22.1% MOM.

Across retail sales channels, department store sales fell (-0.3% YOY, -0.1% MOM) but online they grew (+3.4% YOY, +6.4% MOM), and accounted for 17.5% of all sales in the category.

The overall strong online growth came as shoppers spent more money in stores as well – a year on from the Beast of the East snowstorms. They spent 6.6% more, excluding automotive fuel, in March compared to the previous year to buy 6.2% more goods, while sales were up by 1.2% by both value and volume compared to last month. Looking to the longer-term trend, shoppers spent 5.1% more over the past three months, compared to the same period a year earlier, to buy 4.8% more goods.

Rhian Murphy, head of retail sales at the ONS, said: “Retail sales increased in the three months to March, following sustained growth throughout the first three months of the year. March’s mild weather boosted sales, with food shops also recovering after a weak February.

“Over the longer term, department stores were the only shop type to see their sales shrink.”

Commenting on the figures, Anne Alexandre,…