Sales increase +18.8 per cent YoY despite high street struggles and early Easter
Despite it reportedly being another difficult month for sales and footfall on the high street, UK online retail sales went from strength to strength in April, up +18.8% year-on-year (YoY) according to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index. This was the highest YoY increase since November 2016 and came in despite Easter falling in March this year.
There was a fall in the overall market conversion rate (down 4.15 per cent from 4.3 per cent YoY) marking the fifth consecutive decline this year. This is likely to be due to the increasing penetration of sales made through smartphones, which have lower conversion rates generally. Meanwhile average basket values (ABV) increased – jumping 14 pounds (month on month) to £117.12 for Multichannel retailers, and by 3.5 pounds to £87.16 for online-only.
April featured the first really warm weather of the year, which may have had an impact on almost all sectors seeing growth in April. In Clothing sales increased +15.6% YoY, and the Garden sector also grew by +12.0%. Comparatively, a weaker month for Home (decreased by -15.6% YoY) brought the overall Home and Garden sector increase to 4.6% versus last year.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: “Growth in online retail sales revenue has been markedly higher than expected throughout 2018 so far. One reason is likely to be related to a turnaround in economic fortunes – while inflation outstripped wage growth for most of 2017, the gap has closed in recent months and wage growth was actually higher than inflation in March 2018. This means that, on the whole, UK shoppers should be feeling a bit more confident in making purchases. This is reflected in the data we are tracking – if we look at the last six months (Jul-Dec) of 2017, online retail sales growth was +12.2%. The first four months of 2018 has come in at +16.2%.
“What has been very apparent is that it is online retail that is benefiting, while the high street is facing a sustained downturn. Up until now, there have been multiple reasons to suspect that this split in performance may have been influenced by various external – and therefore temporary – factors; the above-average rainfall in January, the snow in February / March, Easter being early this year. The fact that April 2018 is comparing against an April last year that included Easter – with the boost to retail that it typically brings – suggests that this is not a blip. As shoppers have started to find themselves with a bit more disposable income in 2018, we are possibly witnessing an acceleration in the shift of shopper behaviour over to online.
“Much of the coverage of the downturn on the high street sees it as a negative development – but actually shoppers are still shopping as much as they did before, it’s not retail that is suffering; it’s just undergoing a digital transition at a far faster pace than was previously the case.”