Strongest ever online growth for store retailers as high street reopens

Oxford Street 2020
Oxford Street, June 2020 Image: ©TheIndustry.fashion

With COVID-19’s long-term impact on consumer behaviour still unclear, the week that non-essential stores reopened saw online sales soar by +41% year-on-year (YoY) and 1.8% week-on-week (WoW).

Despite the reopening of their physical stores on 15 June, multichannel retailers recorded online sales growth of +4% week-on-week. Compared to 2019, this represented a staggering increase of +71% year-on-year, which is the highest growth ever recorded for this group. according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.

Even with some heavy discounting, online clothing sales plateaued at 0% growth WoW. Taking a deeper look in to how certain categories performed, strong sales in home & garden and electricals were most notable at +114.7% and +99.9% respectively.

Health and beauty sales also rose by +70.5% YoY, but were down -2.5% WoW. With many health and beauty stores open during lockdown, this dip may not have been influenced by the high street reopening.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant at Retail Insight, Capgemini, said: “Multichannel retailers saw online sales go from strength to strength despite a hypothesis that the ability to spend in reopened stores would decrease the reliance on online shopping.

“As lockdown eases in an attempt to shift back towards the former pre-COVID-19 norm, the question remains which consumer behaviours and trends will return, and which will have changed for the long term. Have consumers shopping habits irreversibly swung towards online shopping rather than instore shopping? Alongside an increased drive for consumer spending, it appears moving retail front of mind is also potentially causing a halo effect in digital sales.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, added: “At first glance, it might seem a bit odd that the multichannel retailers – those with stores – recorded the highest online growth ever at +71% in the week that their stores reopened. It seems that all the fanfare around high streets opening again did spur an increase in sales activity, as people perhaps start to feel things are returning to something a bit closer to ‘normal’, but what that normal is going to be received some clarity.

“The bulk of that activity remains focused online, with shoppers visiting stores in much lower numbers but with a clearly focused intention to complete a purchase, as opposed to just browsing. It’s early days, and the 2m rule is set to be reduced to 1m+ soon, but it’s a revealing indication of how shopper behaviour is perhaps now structured.”

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