Whilst the high street had a quarter to forget, online retail sales grew by 18 per cent over the first three months of the year, according to figures published today.
The latest IMRG-Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows that e-tail trading in the UK grew at the fastest rate for the first quarter since 2008, with spending in March alone totalling £5.1 billion.
Clothing accessories saw the largest rise in online sales during March, up 21 per cent month-on-month and a huge 59 per cent year-on-year, whilst health & beauty product trade grew by 32 per cent compared to the same month in 2010.
Tina Spooner, Director of Information at IMRG, said: “The index reveals an encouraging performance for the e-retail market during March and confirms that online continues to be the beacon for the UK retail market during these tough economic conditions, with the high street suffering its worst drop in sales for 15 years during the same period.
“The 18 per cent annual growth recorded in the first quarter of 2011 is in line with our prediction for the year.”
Figures from the British Retail Consortium and KPMG earlier this week revealed that overall UK trading fell by 3.5 per cent in March, the worst year-on-year drop in retail sales since 1995.
In that context the online figures are very impressive, with an online sales rise of 14 per cent in March equating to £82 per person.
Spooner added: “IMRG’s recent online confidence survey revealed that over 70 per cent of UK retailers expect online sales to remain healthy for the remainder of the year which, when combined with the solid growth recorded by the Index, indicates that the outlook for 2011 remains positive for the UK e-retail industry.”
Despite the struggles of the high street, retailers with both bricks and mortar and e-tail operations favoured best during the month with their sales growing 19 per cent compared to online only retailers seeing just a six per cent year-on-year jump.
The only retail categories to see online sales declines from February were electricals and gifts, which witnessed trading declines of eight and 16 per cent respectively - but both segments grew sales compared to last year.
Phillip Rinn, Senior Director of advertising at eBay International, commented: “The latest IMRG Capgemini e-Sales Index highlights how the online high street is resilient to wider retail and economic trends.
“For marketers, it has never been more important to ensure they have a strong presence on the online high street in order to grab a slice of that £5.1 billion pie.”