The latest figures from BRC-KPMG, outlining the 3rd-30th April, have recorded the slowest online growth since April 2013.
Online Non-Food sales reported a rise of 6.6% in April, a slowdown from March, driving down the three-month and 12-month average growth rates to 8.9% and 11.9% respectively. However, this was set against a strong comparable period, 15.4% in April 2015, the second highest growth rate of 2015.
The home categories – Household Appliances, Homewares, and Furniture – were among the top online performers.
Online continues to be the main driver of sales growth - all categories except footwear grew in the online channel, whereas only Furniture, Homewares and Health & Beauty experienced growth in stores.
The proportion of UK Non-Food sales purchased online was 20.9% in April, only fractionally down from the highest penetration rate recorded by the monitor, 22.4% in November. This was also the fourth month in a row that the online penetration rate exceeded the 20% threshold, an indicator of how online shopping is now fully integrated in the overall shopping experience.
The unsettled weather was an additional incentive to use the online channel to shop from the comfort of our homes and desks. A flurry of promotional activities also played its part in driving extra online purchases, as illustrated by a greater penetration rate than in March and by an increase in penetration rate of 1.7 percentage points year-on-year, the largest year-to-date.
Retailers noted that the sales of big ticket items such as furniture had been dampened in April 2015, due to the uncertainty caused by the run-up to the general election. That provided a soft comparable to this year and helped April’s growth to accelerate from March. Furniture was the second-best contributor to online growth. Bedding furniture reportedly sold well in April, as did Living & Dining. The proportion of Furniture bought online increased by 0.9 percentage points from last April to 27.8%, the largest YOY increase since December.
Homewares growth slowed down versus March but the category remained among the top three of the online growth rankings table in April. Soft furnishings and bedding textiles were reported as good performers. The penetration rate increased by 0.9 percentage points YOY to 17.7%, a lower gain and a lower rate than achieved in March, as the in-store growth of the category accelerated in April.
The BRC's Helen Dickinson comments: “As shopping online continues to become a staple of the retail experience, it’s little surprise that the growth in the value of digital sales continues to taper off year-on-year. April saw retailers growing their online non-food sales by 6.6% which, despite being a healthy increase, is the slowest growth since April 2013. However, online remained a significant proportion of total non-food retail sales at 20.9% - only fractionally down on the highest on record.
“Today’s monitor also shows that online has been the driving force behind sales growth in the three months to April – digital sales contributed just over 2% to total non-food sales growth while store based transactions fell by -1.3%. With consumers no longer thinking in channels, physical stores can continue to contribute to the success of a retailer’s online offer and vice versa. It’s therefore critical for retailers to finesse their offer from clicks to bricks and for policy makers to ensure regulations for consumer protection and retailers alike are consistent and channel agnostic.”