How much shopping gets done online?

Published: 8th Jun 2018

In brief


Everybody is getting their news and information, and watching television on a tablet.


An Ofcom survey published in 2017 reported that 17% of UK adults reported getting news from internet or apps on a tablet, although Ofcom says this may be underestimated. Most adults get their news from television. An Ofcom commissioned survey found that of adults who used video on demand or TV catch-up services, 35% watch film and TV on a tablet. 83% use a TV.


Many people are buying online and not going to the shops.


The proportion of retail sales made online is steadily increasing, but at around 17%, doesn’t account for the majority of purchases.

Claim 1 of 2

“Everybody is getting their news and information off the tablet. They’re watching television on the tablet... So many people… are buying online and they’re not going to the shops.”

Richard Madeley, 7 June 2018

Around 17% of all retailing in Great Britain was in online sales in April 2018, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and that proportion is increasing.

Ofcom found that 17% of adults in the UK got their news from apps or online using a tablet in 2016, although that figure may have been underestimated. Ofcom reported in 2017 that 35% of adults they surveyed who use video on demand or TV catch-up services watch programmes and films using a tablet.

Going online shopping

Online shopping accounted for around 17% of all retail in England, Wales and Scotland in April 2018, according to estimates from the Office for National Statistics. This is up from 16% in April 2017.

The proportion of shopping done online has generally increased since at least 2008. Almost 6% of food purchases, and 17% of those for textile, clothing and footwear, were made online, which were both record levels.

These figures are collected monthly from a sample of about 5,000 retailers operating in Great Britain, including “all large retailers and a representative sample of smaller businesses”. The ONS says their sample “covers approximately 93% of all known turnover in the retail industry” if you look at it “in terms of the number of businesses”.

Internet sales in general were up by just under 12% between April 2017 and April 2018.

The average weekly value of internet sales was £1.2 billion in April 2018, most of which was spent in stores without a physical presence.

How do you like your news in the morning?

Most adults (69%) in the UK get their news from TV, according to a survey by Ofcom in 2016. 17% of adults said that “nowadays” they use internet or apps on a tablet for news. That’s up from 13% in the previous two years.

Around 33% said they used radio, and 29% said they used printed newspapers in 2016.

Ofcom’s research comes from a face-to-face survey of just under 3,000 people in the UK on the ways they consume news. Ofcom says the data may “underestimate some online news consumption activity” as it’s a recall-based survey, relying on people remembering they looked at news online, which might be less memorable than say buying a newspaper or sitting down to watch television.

Ofcom’s Technology Tracker survey, which samples just under 4,000 adults in the UK, found that in 2017 58% of adults had a tablet of some kind. 35% of adults who said they used TV catch-up or video on demand services said they used tablets to do so, according to a survey by pollsters Populus commissioned by Ofcom in 2017. 55% said they used a PC or laptop, and 35% said they used a smartphone, while 83% said they did so using a TV set. These figures come from an online survey sampling just over 2,000 adults.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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