Online retail sales continues sluggish growth in April

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April online sales
// Easter fails to provide boost for subdued online retail sales in April
// Online retail sales came in at 5.2% year-on-year, compared to last year’s 12.5%
// April’s growth is also below the three, six and 12-month averages

The Easter long weekend failed to provide a much-needed boost for online retail sales, with figures for last month indicating sluggish growth after a disappointing first quarter.

According to the latest IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, online retail sales came in at just 5.2 per cent year-on-year during April.

This was well under the growth of 12.5 per cent year-on-year recorded during the same month last year, and continues an ongoing trend of subdued growth seen since the start of 2019.

April’s growth rate was also below the three, six and 12-month averages of of 8.3 per cent, 7.6 per cent and 9.8 per cent respectively.

During the first quarter of this year, the index recorded average sales growth of 7.5 per cent, which is the lowest quarterly growth since the first quarter of 2015, where averahe sales growth was at six per cent.

Comparatively, the first same quarter last year delivered growth of 14.5 per cent.

A number of categories struggled in April – most notably clothing, which saw its overall growth rate slow to 6.7 per cent year-on-year, compared to 9.9 per cent in April 2018.

This was the six-consecutive month of single-digit growth for clothing, and follows a quarter of just 3.2 per cent growth versus 13.9 per cent in the first quarter of 2018.

Electricals also continued its downwards momentum last month, where it declined by 27 per cent.

Gifts saw a similarly steep decline of 22 per cent and following a 15-month run of positive growth, health & beauty slumped to a decline of 0.7 per cent.

However, home and garden was one area which seemed to be boosted by the warm Easter long weekend, with online sales growing 13 per cent year-on-year.

“Easter 2018 fell between March and April so we were hopeful the figures for April 2019 would be favourable given the slow performance in March – this did not seem to be the case,” Capgemini principal consultant Bhavesh Unadkat said.

“If you compare March and April 2018 to March and April 2019 then the growth is only 6.2 per cent, which is still less than half the growth of April 2018 on April 2017.”

He added: “Looking ahead, we are approaching a strong May-July 2018 performance to benchmark against given the royal wedding, football World Cup and good weather, leaving retailers with the feeling of having a ‘mountain to climb’ next month and beyond.”

IMRG insight director Andy Mulcahy said: “Online sales were strong in the first half of [2018], but growth rates dropped toward the end of the year culminating in subdued trading over the Black Friday and Christmas peak.

“2019 has seen a continuation of those trends, with clothing sales having a particularly difficult time – growth for this category has been low single-digit for six consecutive months for the first time since we started tracking it.

“There seems to be little sign of imminent improvement in shopper confidence – retailers will now be hoping that the warmer weather forecast over the coming weeks may stimulate greater demand, especially for those selling seasonal fashion lines.”

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