UK e-sales drop against last year, clothing is flat
E-tail sales fell by 3.4% year on year in October, which came after a fall of 7.3% in the same month last year. That said, compared to September 2022, growth was 11.7%, which is comparable to what has been seen in recent years as the festive shopping season gets under way.
That’s all according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.
Interestingly, traffic to online retail sites increased by 2.1% on the year, yet online visitors aren’t converting into customers at the same rate as previous years (20% lower than 2021).
That fact highlights the huge challenges that online retailers face. They boomed during the pandemic with what was seen as a decade of likely future development having been squeezed into just 18 months as customers were forced to migrate online.
However, while the online habit remains strong among British consumers, they've returned to physical shops more enthusiastically than expected. And this, combined with the current cost-of-living crisis that's making many people think twice about spending in general, has had an impact on the e-tail sector.
In some cases, this has meant companies such as Boohoo seeing major challenges, or at its most extreme, Made.com going into administration.
Historically, the transition from summer into autumn tends to increase consumer spend as people begin to prepare early for Christmas. As a result, every category in October, with the exception of garden, saw positive monthly growth.
On a yearly basis, furniture was the standout category, up 2.9%, although this uptick was slower across premium brands indicating a more cost-conscious consumer spend.
Meanwhile, clothing, which has seen positive sales for most of the year, experienced flat growth last month. Health and beauty (-7.2%) was among the most noticeable yearly declines.
Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG, said: “The gifts category gives us an indication of the challenging trading environment at the moment; it is experiencing declines of 20% and more in some weeks; this comes on top of declines of 30% for the same weeks in 2021. Shoppers may really tighten their spend in areas such as gifts, which isn’t great news for Christmas demand.
“Furthermore, the timing of the chancellor’s autumn statement, currently scheduled for the Thursday before the start of Black Friday ‘week’, and where many expect the announcement of tax rises, it seems likely that shopper confidence will be dented further at the worst possible time for retailers.”
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