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Boom in online retail sales shows signs of slowdown

Tom Bottomley
11 September 2020

Online sales growth was up +43.5% year-on-year in August, but sales were down -4.1% month-on-month according to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.

The year-on-year increase dipped below the rolling 3-month average of +49.95%.

As the government’s "Eat Out to Help Out" initiative drove people back to the high street, the gap between retailer type continued to widen, as multichannel retailers once again outshone their online only counterparts – recording growth of +70.5% year-on-year compared to +11.4%.

Elsewhere the relaxation of lockdown and hot weather were reflected in sales at a category level. While restaurant visits increased, clothing sales were also up again by +6.8% year-on-year, compared to last month’s more modest rise of +0.6%.

During a month of sporadic heatwaves, gardening sales also boomed by +286.1%, but footwear was once again the loser as sales continued to spiral down by -10.7% year-on-year.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant at Retail Insight, Capgemini, said: “As summer comes to a close, we have seen a slowdown in the growth online and we expect to see some shifts in the category spending as we move into autumn.

“In particular, clothing seems to be returning to positive growth, boosted by the return to school and offices as well as further mobility, however this may not be enough to capture the total lost sales during the summer pandemic period. Footwear, for example, is the only category to remain in negative growth since March, impacted by events and reduced wear throughout lockdown.”

Gibbs believes that the disrupted seasonal trends and higher proportion of spend online has had a disproportionate impact on retailers without diverse product ranges or a strong online offering, as well as challenges in planning and supply chain.

She added: “Retailers will need to remain reactive and innovative to prepare for the upcoming months. Government incentives have worked well to ignite spending on the high street, but low consumer confidence and ongoing economic uncertainty means the discounting period around Black Friday could prove to be significant to regain sales. As many consumers have now shifted online, we can also expect a significant growth in e-commerce during the festive period.”

IMRG strategy and insight director, Andy Mulcahy, commented: “Now that we are coming out of summer, all attention is inevitably focused on the Black Friday and Christmas period. The big question is, just how big Black Friday will be online this year? With most types of business open again, and people being actively encouraged by the government to return to their offices, are we starting to see some signs of online and offline sales balancing out again?

“While it’s true that the August rate of growth was a bit lower than it had been over the past three months, it doesn’t necessarily mean online growth is slowing down.”Newsletter banner

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