On Sunday the BBC broadcast and published a documentary that examined Amazon's dominance of UK retail. The text version of the piece led with a startling claim:
On average, every person in Britain spends just over £70 a year on Amazon. That's more than half the country's entire online retail spend. It's an impressive result for a business started on a couple of computers exactly 20 years ago.
This is quite the newsworthy story, but when I went to confirm the story and find details which would put it into perspective I ended up with new information that made me doubt whether the BBC is correct.
Update: And I just received confirmation that this detail was not correct:
@thDigitalReader You're right. We misread info we got from ONS - then thought they'd confirmed our line. Have asked for cut. Thank you.
— Charles Miller (@chblm) April 24, 2014
According to The Independent, Amazon's revenues for 2013 were under £5 billion:
Analysts said Britain’s biggest online retailer was feeling the squeeze as traditional players such as John Lewis and Dixons raised their game — particularly with “click and collect” services.
Accounts filed by the US parent company show Amazon’s UK sales were $7.29 billion (£4.46 billion) — a rise of around $800 million on a year earlier. British revenues rose by $1 billion to $6.48 billion in 2012 and by $1.4 billion to $5.35 billion in 2011.
Depending on your perspective, that could be a large sum. But before I posted I went looking for details on the overall retail spending in the UK, which I thought would present a useful perspective on Amazon's share of UK retail.
I was aiming for a post similar to the one I wrote on Friday which compared Amazon's revenues to other US retailers, but instead I ended up with information that lead in a completely different direction.
According to the latest estimates, online retail in the UK were a lot larger than the BBC would have you believe:
UK shoppers spent £91bn online in 2013, according to new figures.
The internet retailing market grew by 16% during the course of the year, according to the IMRG-Capgemini eRetail Sales Index for December. It was capped by a final month in which online sales rose by 18%, with £11bn spent up from £9bn in December 2012. Twice as much was spent via mobile devices as was spent using them in December 2012. The figures beat IMRG’s original estimate, last January of 12% growth.
The BBC said that Amazon accounts for "more than half the country's entire online retail spend". I'm sorry, but that just doesn't add up. There isn't even any way to massage the numbers and make that statement come out true.
Does anyone have a clue as to why the numbers don't add up?
I will admit to being baffled.