Jan 10, 2022
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Golden Quarter digital fashion sales strong despite December slowdown

Jan 10, 2022

A strong Golden Quarter was enjoyed by UK online fashion retailers, according to consumer experience platform True Fit.

Its report described the December performance alone as “resilient”, even though sales plummeted compared to the previous month. But this was understandable given Covid curbs that limited pre-Christmas socialising amid Omicron fears.

Digital fashion sales in December rose 8% year-on-year while online fashion checkouts were also up 8% across the entire three months of the peak trading period. Meanwhile, average order value also rose 7% on a year ago.

According to True Fit’s Fashion Genome, which analyses data from 17,000 retail brands and 84 million active members, digital browsing peaked early in the season as shoppers “looked to get ahead of supply chain disruption and potential shipping delays, making the Black Friday/Cyber 5 (Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday) boost more pronounced this year”.

On average, web traffic volumes across the peak trading period (October-December) were 37% higher year-on-year, while online order volumes spiked even earlier compared to 2020, up 10% in October and 8% in November, “mirroring consumers’ ‘get ahead’ approach to digital fashion purchases in the run up to Christmas”.

However, both digital fashion sales and web traffic then fell back in December, falling 35% and 121% month-on-month respectively. 

This dip, True Fit suggests, could have been caused by consumers buying early, having already made digital fashion purchases during Black Friday. Or it could have been due to shoppers holding off making new online apparel buys due to Covid restriction uncertainty ahead of Christmas. 

With Plan B restrictions for England announced in early December, a fifth of UK businesses cancelled Christmas parties due to Omicron fears, while consumers limited pre-Christmas socialising to avoid infection or isolation ahead of Christmas Day. That saw hospitality's Christmas trade dip 50% on pre-pandemic levels.  

However, while web traffic to fashion retailers sites was down month-on-month in December, web visits were still up 30% on 2020 levels even as stores remained fully open this year, “demonstrating the elevated and sustained demand for digital fashion”.

Meanwhile, demand for online fit guidance during peak trading rose 13% compared to 2020, despite stores being fully open this year.

Sarah Curran Usher, GM EMEA at True Fit, said: “So far, online fashion continues to perform strongly and next year we will reach the watershed moment when, for the first time, digital fashion sales will overtake High Street revenues, validating the long-term shift in e-commerce demand and the buying behaviours of increasingly digitally-first consumers.”

“As revenues from online channels rise in line with consumer demand for digital fashion, retailers and brands will need to build confidence in shoppers to evaluate brands and products digitally and leverage data to understand shoppers, their preferences and returns behaviour.”

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