April online retail sales holds up as shoppers returned to high streets

April online retail sales holds up as shoppers returned to high streets
// Despite the easing of lockdown, online retail showed positive growth in April, with sales rising 10.2% Y-o-Y
// But some impact of the high street reopening was evident in the month-on-month numbers, which were down 12%
// The figures are also below the 3, 6 & 12-month rolling averages of 50.4%, 50.1% & 49.8%

New data has shown that online retail sales in April held up well despite shoppers making their way back to bricks-and-mortar shops after three months of lockdown.

Despite the reopening of non-essential retail throughout the month, and against strong figures for April last year – the first full month of the first UK-wide lockdown – when growth was 44 per cent, online retail sales rose 10.2 per cent year-on-year.

That’s according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which also showed some evidence of the impact of non-essential shops reopening on a month-on-month basis, with a decline of 12 per cent from March.


The figures are also below the three, six and 12-month rolling averages of 50.4 per cent, 50.1 per cent and 49.8 per cent, respectively.

April’s results paint a similarly mixed picture at a category level.

In the anticipation of sunshine, socialising and summer holidays, online fashion sales continued their reversal in fortunes, up 60.9 per cent overall and as high as 98.9 per cent for womenswear.

While this compares to a dramatic drop in sales last year (-25.1 per cent), the index suggests that people are starting to plan for the end of government restrictions.

On the flip side, April also saw a reduction in health and beauty (-9 per cent), electrical (-3.7 per cent) and garden sales (-13.3 per cent), all of which have enjoyed soaring growth since the start of the first lockdown last year.

For both the electricals and garden categories, this was the first negative result in 19 and 15 months, respectively.

“While online growth might have dropped away from 70-80 per cent between January and March to 10 per cent in April, this is largely as growth rates are now comparing with pandemic-period rates from 2020, which were so strong that it is hard to build upon that performance,” IMRG insight director Andy Mulcahy said.

“In January, we mapped out how growth could look if things go relatively well for online, relatively badly, and somewhere in the middle.

“In April, retail generally seems to have done well, and the rate of online growth is currently somewhere between average and good in that forecast. As people get more options for spending their money in later May and into June, that will provide a sterner test.”

Capgemini managing consultant Lucy Gibbs said: “This month’s 10 per cent increase on 2020 is particularly impressive when considering last April’s 44 per cent year-on-year growth.

“It has been over a year since the first UK lockdown therefore growth online on top of this is significant.

“We can see the impact of the re-opening of the high street when we look at month-on-month figures, however, despite the strong growth; we would typically see April compared to March as flat, however this year April is 12 per cent lower.

“This trend can also be seen in retail type, as multichannel retailers dropped to 5.7 per cent growth in April versus last year, whereas online only retailers maintained growth in line with the beginning of the year at 20 per cent.”

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