Though not quite at January’s record-breaking levels, online retail sales in February continued to show strong growth, climbing by +69.5% YoY, reports IMRG Capgemini.

This growth was still well above the rolling three-, six- and 12-month averages (+57.1% +42.5% and +42.7%, YoY respectively). 

As the UK Government announced a roadmap out of lockdown and consumers started preparing for greater outdoor freedoms, all sectors reported positive results, with electricals, home and garden (sales spiking at +131% YoY) and beauty leading the pack. Mobile sales also rocketed by +170% YoY.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – retail insight, Capgemini, says: “February growth remains strong (+69.5%) as we near a full year since the pandemic closed the high street for the first time. Online growth has been highest in this third national lockdown – however, as we approach the YoY comparisons against the swings of 2020 we are likely to see some interesting metrics play out over the next few months.

“For example, electricals and home & garden, up 158% and 131% in February, have seen unprecedented growth figures since the pandemic began. This will mean that even if there is continued strong demand in these categories, we are likely to see swings to the negative compared to last year."

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, adds: “It’s become common for people to look for the ‘new normal’ across industries, but it might be too early to be focusing on that. Instead, it is more useful to think of a ‘current normal’, as things are still so unpredictable and susceptible to sudden shifts in customer behaviour. For example, even though there is a roadmap out of lockdown and the vaccination programme is going well, it’s difficult to anticipate exactly how people will behave as restrictions are eased.

“The ‘current normal’ in retail is for sustained pandemic-high growth rates across almost every product category. During Lockdown 1, the average rate of growth was +47% – for Lockdown 3 it is +74%. That rate of growth cannot be sustained once we get into April, but the extent to which spend will be diverted strongly away to ‘experience’ options such as travel, going out, live events, etc is a very tough question to answer.”