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Pandemic sees Brits spend record £110bn online

Joanna Faith
Written By:
Joanna Faith

Britain’s online shopping bill exceeded £110bn for the first time ever last year, a report from Ofcom has revealed.

With lockdown forcing high street shops to close, UK adults shifted online, spending nearly £113bn, up 48% from the previous year.

Online food and drinks retailers saw the biggest increase in sales (+82%), while household goods also surged, due to heightened interest in home improvements (+76%).

The Ofcom study showed UK adults spent more time online during lockdown than any other European country.

They spent more than three-and-a-half hours (217 minutes) online each day in 2020 – more than an hour longer than in Germany and France and 30 minutes more than Spain.

British adults also spent nearly £2.45bn on, and in, mobile apps last year, with Tinder, Disney+, YouTube and Netflix topping the list.

Social video sites and apps were used by almost all (97%) UK adult internet users, and by 92% of 3-4 year-olds. Young adults were particularly heavy users of social video platforms, with 18-24s spending an average of 1 hour 16 minutes per day on YouTube in September 2020 – an increase of 11 minutes since 2019.

TikTok experienced huge growth during the pandemic – from 3 million UK adult visitors in September 2019 to 14 million by March 2021. TikTok also saw the biggest increase in daily use among young adults – with 18-24s more than doubling their time spent on it in the year to September 2020 (up from 17 minutes to 38 minutes).

Yih-Choung Teh, group director of strategy and research at Ofcom, said: “In an unprecedented year, we’ve seen a real acceleration in our migration to online services – which, for many people, have provided a lifeline in lockdown.

“This research is critical to keep pace with these changes in technology, economics and behaviour, as we prepare to take on new responsibilities for regulating online safety.”