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No signs of early Christmas spend as online sales continue to underperform in October

10 Nov 2021
  • Online retail sales fell by -11.2% Year-on-Year (YoY) last month – only a slight rise on September’s -12.5%
  • October’s result comfortably beat the 3-month (-52.3%) and 6-month (-32.6%) averages, but fell below the 12-month average (-2.09%)
  • Aligning with pre-pandemic patterns for this time of year, Month-on-Month sales grew by +11.2%
  • For only the second time since December 2019, garden sales dipped into the negative at -7.5%

LONDON UK – 10 November 2021: Despite expectations that an early start to festive spend might herald a return to growth in October, online retail sales remain low, falling by -11.2% Year-on-Year (YoY). This is according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers. While the Month-on-Month (MoM) surge of +11.2% proved the highest since the high streets reopened in April, this performance falls in line with pre-pandemic patterns for this time of year.

Last month’s slowdown in online sales was once again kicked off by a poor first week, down -12.5% compared to only -0.9% during the last week. While the average basket value (ABV) remains high at £131 (though down from its August peak of £149), the conversion rate has fallen further (+2.9% in Oct 2021 vs +4.1% in Oct 2020), suggesting ongoing issues with stock levels, due to the pressure on the supply chain.

At a category level, beers, wines and spirits retailers are still seeing positive growth, but only just – up +2.2% compared to last month’s figures of +18.6%. The only other category to record growth was clothing – up +7.5%. Elsewhere, for only the second time since December 2019, garden sales have declined (-7.5%), while health and beauty remains the worst hit category at -23.3% growth.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Lead for Analytics & AI, Capgemini: “October online spending was more subdued than expected this year. Stock shortages and supply chain disruptions gave speculation that customers might start shopping earlier than usual, however, this may also be having a negative effect; Conversion is down across the board compared to the last two years, with stock outs and lack of stock depth contributing to customers not transacting.

“Consumer confidence has also dropped for a third month in a row as financial concerns build due to increasing inflation and interest rates, and climbing Covid-19 rates, providing a cautious backdrop ahead of this year’s peak season. Campaigns for Black Friday are ready and waiting, however, will these be enough to draw the share of wallet this season?”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: “The potential for Christmas shopping to get underway early this year did not really materialise in October, but it is evident that retailers are certainly trying to get it moving in early November. Of the 317 retailers IMRG is tracking every day, 25 had their Black Friday campaigns live on Wednesday 3rd November versus only 14 on the same day in 2021. In terms of sales performance, it seems to be a mix at the moment, and this may be what characterises peak trading as some are better positioned with their stock levels than others. A poll IMRG ran of 50 retailers on 4th November found that half were seeing activity on their sites ‘below expectation’, while it was ‘above expectation’ for around a quarter. There could end up being quite a sharp divide between who does well and who does not this festive period.”



The IMRG Capgemini Sales Index was adjusted in August 2020 to reflect updated historic figures from our retail panel. Previously reported results have been recalibrated to provide a more accurate view of the market index.

About the ‘IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index’

The IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which was started in April 2000, tracks ‘online sales’, which we define as ‘transactions completed fully, including payment, via interactive channels’ from any location, including in-store.  

*Please note from January 2020 the Index no longer includes data from the travel sector

About IMRG

For over 20 years, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) has been the voice of e-retail in the UK. We are a membership community comprising businesses of all sizes – multichannel and pureplay, SME and multinational, and solution providers to industry. We support our members through a range of activities – including market tracking and insight, benchmarking and best practice sharing. Our indexes provide in-depth intelligence on online sales, mobile sales, delivery trends and over 40 additional KPIs. Our goal is to ensure our members have the information and resources they need to succeed in rapidly-evolving markets – both domestically and internationally.

About Capgemini

Capgemini is a global leader in partnering with companies to transform and manage their business by harnessing the power of technology. The Group is guided everyday by its purpose of unleashing human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. It is a responsible and diverse organisation of over 300,000 team members in nearly 50 countries. With its strong 50 year heritage and deep industry expertise, Capgemini is trusted by its clients to address the entire breadth of their business needs, from strategy and design to operations, fuelled by the fast evolving and innovative world of cloud, data, AI, connectivity, software, digital engineering and platforms. The Group reported in 2020 global revenues of €16 billion.

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