As lockdown restrictions were reintroduced throughout September, online sales returned to patterns that would be expected at this time of year, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers, which states that, in comparison to the spending surges seen during phase 1 of the lockdown, last month recorded steady seasonal online sales growth of +42% YoY – below the peak growth of +51% in June, but still very strong.
At a category level, home & garden continued to perform well, with sales growing +76.3%.
Echoing sales figures from the last six months, multichannel retailers continued to strongly outperform their online-only counterparts, recording growth of +62.7% versus +19.6%.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, comments: “September marked a new phase in the Covid outbreak as, after three months of easing restrictions and encouraging work/life/social interactions to resume, restrictions started to be reimposed. The situation is somewhat different to how it was in March though, and it didn’t trigger an upsurge in online sales. Growth is still very strong, but the weekly and monthly trend lines are fluctuating in line with what we’d expect to see this time of year.
“From here, that could change. October has seen much stricter measures come into force across the UK plus the new three-tier system. With rising infection rates and potential for more restrictions, the attractiveness of physical retail may decline further. This makes Super Saturday – the busiest day leading into Christmas Week – problematic, as that volume will have to be diverted away from places like Oxford Street to elsewhere – most likely online, with serious proximity to Christmas, so retailers and carriers will be hoping people spread their spending out to avoid that bottleneck.”
Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant - retail insight, Capgemini, adds: “The hardest-hit sectors during lockdown such as clothing have continued to pick up throughout September (+7.9%), boosted by increased activity and a turn in the weather. However, with increasing social distancing measures combined with the lack of festive events appearing in the calendar, we are likely to see further disruption to seasonal patterns as we head into winter.
“Higher-frequency purchases are also indicating new consumer behaviour patterns – basket values have dropped -10% in September, whilst YoY demand has remained over +40% growth, suggesting that the convenience of online channels is increasingly relied upon for day-to-day purchases. This leaves an interesting landscape ahead of Christmas, where the prospect of double-digit growth on top of peak sales days could cause retailers to seek ways to ease the pressure on delivery channels. One way to address this could be to spread demand, with some stores notably bringing Christmas ranges forward, and the delayed Amazon Prime Day lines up to kickstart spending in the golden quarter. It could pay to get ahead of the game this year.”