UK Ecommerce Forecast 2021

Digital to the Forefront as Ecommerce Makes Rapid Gains on Physical Sales

About This Report
Ecommerce helped retail out of a sticky spot during the pandemic, and those habits formed during lockdowns will endure, as digital demands more attention than ever—37.5% of all retail sales this year will be ecommerce sales.

Executive Summary

The pandemic helped supercharge retail ecommerce in the UK. And even as things begin to return to normal, the retail landscape has unalterably changed, and ecommerce now demands a place at the table.

How will ecommerce sales fare post-pandemic?

Huge 46.5% year-over-year (YoY) growth in ecommerce sales last year will be followed by strong growth of 20.5% in 2021. This will help push ecommerce sales to £185.22 billion ($237.52 billion). In 2019, the split between ecommerce and physical retail was 21.8% and 78.2%, respectively. This year the gap will shrink with 37.5% for ecommerce and 62.5% for brick and mortar.

Which ecommerce categories rode out the lockdowns best?

Online, the food and beverage and household goods categories benefited from UK lockdowns. Older age groups adapted to online grocery shopping, boosting the food and beverage category. Household goods, meanwhile, benefited from people stuck at home seeking to improve their lockdown experience. The textiles, clothing, and footwear category suffered badly, even though ecommerce sales remained strong. By 2025, we expect ecommerce sales to account for half of all sales in this category.

How will different digital buyer subcategories perform?

The UK already has a high number of digital buyers, but social media buying is not yet commonplace. That will begin to change, though, as more people buy via social channels. Cross-border buyer numbers will dip, as Brexit concerns take their toll. The number of click-and-collect buyers, meanwhile, will remain strong, underpinned by a mature grocery sector.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report presents our latest estimates and forecasts for retail, ecommerce, and mcommerce sales in the UK as well as for various digital buyer categories. We also break out ecommerce sales by category for the first time.

KEY STAT: Physical retail has historically dominated the total retail sales share in the UK, but the pandemic has brought the ecommerce portion much closer to parity. By 2025, ecommerce will account for 38.6% of total retail sales.

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Table of Contents

  1. Executive Summary
  2. Total Retail, Ecommerce, and Mcommerce Sales
  3. Ecommerce Sales by Product Category
  1. Ecommerce Buyers
  2. Key Takeaways
  3. Read Next
  1. Media Gallery

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Bill Fisher


Whitney Birdsall
Senior Forecasting Analyst
Peter Vahle
Forecasting Analyst
Karin von Abrams
Principal Analyst