Nov 20, 2019
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Pureplays and smartphones are biggest e-tail winners in worst October ever

Nov 20, 2019

Online sales in Britain rose 6.2% year-on-year last month, with fashion playing its part in the rise, even if many sales were driven by markdowns. That's according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers. 

Smartphone shopping grew fast last month

On the plus side, the 6.2% rise was a slightly more positive result than the rolling averages for the last three, six and 12 months (+5%, +4.5%, and +5.1% respectively). But the increase was well below some of the much more impressive rises that we’ve become used to from the online channel in previous years. 

There were pockets of strength, however. For instance, pureplay online retailers saw sales growth three times that of their multichannel rivals with a 12.4% increase compared to 4.3% for the multichannel players.

And sales through smartphones continued to progress with a stunning increase of 50.8% year on year in October. The overall rise in m-commerce was 15.2% and highlighted a divide in growth between that rapid smartphones acceleration and tablets, which declined 8.6%.

Though still behind the five-year average of +10%, October’s results were better than the numbers for the rest of 2019, even though it was also the lowest growth for online sales in October ever.

Fashion played its part in the October performance compared to earlier this year with a 5.2% rise. In fact, clothing sales sprang back from what had been their first sales fall in over two years duringSeptember, to record the reasonable rise. But basket values dropped and it was clear that markdowns were the order of the day.

Home sales were also up and this sector’s rise was the biggest of all with a 13.6% hike.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, said: “On the surface of it, online retail sales performance in October showed signs of improvement compared with how it has been doing in recent months. However, there are several signs in the data that the growth was in response to heavy discounting. The overall average basket value was down 21% [and] for clothing it was down 13%, while for electricals it was also down 21% and the revenue growth for that category was still negative. 

“The question now is whether this stronger growth is indicative of an improvement in shopper demand, or whether November sales will struggle as a result of volume being pulled forward.” He added that this happened in June this year, with sales growth up 8.5%, the highest of the year, but only as a result of discounting to stimulate that activity. And July growth was the lowest ever for that month as a result. 

“Retailers will be hoping that Black Friday falling later in the month, after payday, will help sustain shopper demand – but it seems far from certain,” Mulcahy concluded.

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