September online sales provides no respite for retailers

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September online sales provides no respite for retailers IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index
9 out of the 15 sectors reported negative performance in online retail sales in comparison to last year.
// Online sales limped up by just 0.6% in September, according to the latest Online Retail Index
// Although above the 3-month average, it was well below six & 12-month rolling averages plus the five-year average

After enduring a sluggish summer period, the new school year and change of season failed boost online retail sales in September, according to the latest data.

Online sales recorded a rise of just 0.6 per cent year-on-year last month, IMRG and Capgemini’s latest Online Retail Index indicates.

September’s figures – excluding travel – failed to match the already low six and 12-month rolling averages of 2.3 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively.

It also plummeted well below the five-year average growth of 10 per cent.


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Delving into the categories, clothing saw its first negative growth in over two years, dropping 1.2 per cent against last year.

Of that overall figure for online fashion sales, menswear suffered significantly with a 22.5 per cent plunge.

Womenswear, footwear and accessories also declined with year-on-year declines of 13.3 per cent, 9.8 per cent and nine per cent respectively.

IMRG and Capgemini said that the overall figure for online fashion sales may also have been impacted by number of public initiatives in September that aimed to shift consumer attitudes towards sustainable fashion.

Electricals also declined by 15.47 per cent and gifts dropped 18.2 per cent.

On the other hand, health and beauty saw sales grew 16.4 per cent, and beers, wine and spirits sales grew 15.3 per cent compared to the 11.4 per cent decline in 2018.

Home and garden also saw a slight reprieve from last month’s decline, growing 1.22 per cent overall.

However, with nine out of the 15 sectors reporting negative performance in comparison to last year, the few inclines weren’t enough to push up the month’s overall average in online retail sales.

Capgemini principal consultant Bhavesh Unadkat said September’s results would trigger some “clear warning signs for retailers” as online sales are “stuttering” just as the “golden quarter” for the sector kicks off.

“Increasing pressures are hitting consumer spending, with low confidence in the political climate and the warmer weather at the start of the month both attributed by retailers as critical factors in this month’s results,” he said.

He added: “Retailers will now be looking ahead at how to make the most out of the peak period.

“With Black Friday promotional discounting on the horizon and consumers expectations set for big reductions, this may prove challenging for retailers to manage after several difficult months.”

IMRG insight director Andy Mulcahy highlighted how the index for January-September was up by just 4.9 per cent compared to the start-of-year forecast of nine per cent.

“There is only one possible positive factor, which might seem slightly surprising, that could help stimulate sales growth – Brexit,” he said.

“In the six months following the June 2016 referendum result, many expected the economic impact to be negative but actually a lot of the indicators were stronger than anticipated.

“If the UK does leave the EU by end of October, while that brings challenges and disruption for businesses, in the short-term the average person isn’t likely to notice any immediate impact.

“Given that 2016 precedent, should Brexit happen, there might be a collective sigh of relief that the tedium of hearing about it is finally over.

“We could see a degree of buoyancy in spending just in time for Black Friday and Christmas, which though temporary could help get retailers through what otherwise might prove a tough peak trading period.”

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