Mar 9, 2021
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Clothing and footwear get UK online sales boost from roadmap to lockdown end

Mar 9, 2021

Overall consumer spending may have been down last month, but online sales continued their stellar run, new figures showed on Tuesday. The latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index showed that while they weren’t quite at January’s record-breaking levels, online retail sales in February continued to show strong growth, climbing by 69.5% year-on-year (YoY).

Online fashion shopping was boosted by the roadmap out of lockdown in February - Photo: Public domain/Pexels

That was well above the rolling averages of three, six and 12 months. All sectors reported positive results and beauty was among the leaders with a 92% rise last month. Perhaps consumers started to think more about make-up as the prospect of going out came closer.

And it was interesting that, despite the ongoing lockdown, sales via mobile devices were up 170% last month. This suggests that more consumers were leaving their homes due to lockdown fatigue, despite ongoing government advice to “stay at home”.

The index tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers and showed that after a tough 2020, clothing sales continued the previous month’s upward trend (+21.3%) and even footwear – the subcategory worst hit by the pandemic – reported growth of 8%. 

In fact, in the week of the lockdown-easing roadmap announcement for England, footwear rose 46.7% as consumers looked forward to stepping out of their slippers and back to ‘normality’. It could also have been due to parents buying new school shoes for their children given that they haven't had to do this for quite a few months.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant - Retail Insight at Capgemini, said that over the next few months, “pent-up demand will benefit sectors such as clothing where spending has been low throughout the pandemic. Increased reasons to refresh wardrobes and social events making their way back on to the calendar will also provide a much-needed boost and hopefully a strong performance for 2021. We are already starting to see revival in this category; the change in season and the lockdown easing roadmap has put a spring in the step for clothing and footwear sales this month”.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, added: “It’s become common for people to look for the ‘new normal’ across industries, but it might be too early to be focusing on that. Instead, it is more useful to think of a ‘current normal’ as things are still so unpredictable and susceptible to sudden shifts in customer behaviour. For example – even though there is a roadmap out of lockdown and the vaccination programme is going well, it’s difficult to anticipate exactly how people will behave as restrictions are eased.

“The ‘current normal’ in retail is for sustained pandemic-high growth rates across almost every product category. During lockdown one (22 Mar-15 Jun), the average rate of growth was 47%; for lockdown three (27 Dec-now) it is 74%. That rate of growth cannot be sustained once we get into April, but the extent to which spend will be diverted strongly away to ‘experience’ options such as travel, going out, live events etc. is a very tough question to answer.”

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