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UK e-retail sales look weak, fashion suffers, mobile shopping rises

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today Jun 20, 2019
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Online retail continues to rise in the UK but the growth rate slowed and fashion saw some setbacks in May. Overall, the latest e-Retail Sales Index from IMRG and Capgemini showed online retail sales were up just 1.9% last month, the worst recorded growth since the Index started. And the monthly growth was below the three-month, six-month, and 12-month rolling averages too (which are respectively +2.2%, +8.2%, +7.5%).


Smartphones increased their share of the e-tail market last month



And clothing? Well, in total it rose 8.2% year-on-year, and managed to beat many other sectors. But it was still less than the 14.4% increase of a year ago. And within that there was bad news for both womenswear and menswear. The former actually fell 4.8%, having risen 9.8% this time last year. And menswear was even worse with a 13.3% drop compared to the year-ago 22.9% increase. Accessories, which has seen successful growth in previous months, reported its worst performance in 10 years (down 20%) and footwear was the only clothing sub-sector to see positive growth with a rise of 6.7%.

The report suggested that the lack of events like royal weddings, as well as the wet weather were partly to blame.

But at least clothing managed an overall rise. Other categories weren’t so lucky with electricals down 27.5% and gifts down 18.5%.

However, the health & beauty sector continued its strong 2019 performance in May, with growth at 22.6% year-on-year.

And m-commerce was up too, by 8.4%, with smartphones reaching a 35% share of e-sales.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, said: “When tracking the movement of something in an index, you sometimes get results that are a bit skewed by the growth rate you are comparing against. May 2018 was one such month – with the early summer heatwave, royal wedding and a World Cup looming, people seemed happy to spend pretty lavishly on retail, so May 2019 was always going to be anchored by it. That said, 1.9% growth is far lower than we might have expected; indeed, it’s the lowest since we started tracking nearly 20 years ago, so it seems there is something more going on here.

“The fact is that retailers are caught in a perfect storm at the moment – with all the problems on the high street, changing customer behaviour, shopper confidence low due to all the CVAs and negative coverage of major brands, a shifting competitive landscape, and, of course, even the weather is refusing to provide any relief. It’s proving tough to find any positives in the sales performance at the moment.”

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