Online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 9.2% in October versus a year earlier, when they had risen by 15.4% over the previous year, a relatively strong comparable period. October’s online sales performance was behind the 3-month and 12-month averages of 10.3% and 11.7%, respectively.

In October 2015, online sales represented 19.1% of total non-food sales, against 18.4% in October 2014. This is the highest penetration rate since November, an indicator that the run-up to Christmas has begun. Furniture was the fastest growing category online.

Online sales contributed 1.5 percentage points to the year-on-year growth of non-food total sales in October, while stores contributed relatively little.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive, British Retail Consortium, says: “The growth of non-food online sales showed a loss of momentum in October, even if it was less severe than the one experienced by stores. However, October 2015 was right on trend with the online retail sales Christmas run up we have seen in the last couple of years – a record proportion of purchases were made online.

"Online non-food retail sales were 19.1% of total non-food sales which is the highest since November 2014. The deep penetration rate can be partially attributed to customers looking for an online bargain in October’s sales. Consumers know that retailers’ websites are always striving to optimise usability, making online a sought after destination to hunt for items on promotion. As we approach Black Friday retailers will be focusing on ensuring there is a successful fulfilment structure in place to satisfy the inevitably large online orders.”

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, says: “With the Bank Holiday boosting September figures, October growth rates online look somewhat weaker in comparison, with total non-food online sales up just 9.2%. However, online penetration rates jumped to 19.1% during the month as many retailers launched e-promotions to encourage pre-festive spending.

“With important promotional e-commerce days coming up in November, retailers will be making sure their websites and fulfilment operations are ready to handle any fireworks on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”