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Online retail sales growth subdued in August

09 Sep 2021

Online retail sales fell by -9.3% Year-on-Year (YoY) last month – which was only a small improvement on July’s -9.6%
August’s performance was still well below the 6- (+2.25%) and 12-month (+21.37%) averages, but above the 3-month average of -10.53%
Trending upwards throughout the month, growth rose to -2.9% during the final week
Online only retailers saw their sales return to positive figures (+1.7%), with their multichannel counterparts stuck at -7.35% growth
Garden continues to flourish with growth of +40.1%

                <p><strong>LONDON UK – 8 September 2021: </strong>After encouraging signs in July of a possible bounce back to positive growth, online retail sales failed to make up much ground in August – slowing their fall only slightly to -9.3% Year-on-Year (YoY). That is according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers. A glance at the Week-on-Week (WoW) figures, however, still indicates that things are heading in the right direction – with the first week of August down -7.7% versus just -2.9% for the final week.</p>

At a category level, while most continue to report negative YoY growth against 2020’s figures, the drops are becoming less dramatic than have appeared previously. Health & beauty remains the poorest performer – down -32.8% versus last month’s -36.1%. Bucking the trend, beers, wines & spirits (+26.8%) and garden (+40.1%) continued to do well throughout August, with clothing also managing to remain in the positive at +10.3%.

Other notable spending trends in August include the Average Basket Volume (ABV) reaching its highest average for 2021 at £149. This was mainly driven by sales in home & garden and electricals, perhaps due to customers switching their cancelled holiday spend for big ticket items. Worryingly however,  conversion sunk to its lowest rate this year  at 3.14%.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Lead for Analytics & AI, Capgemini:

“Online sales growth continued on its negative trend this month. Interestingly, this was mainly driven by a -7.3% drop for Multi-Channel retailers, with Online only retailers actually recording a growth of 1.7% in August compared to July. This could indicate that Multi-Channel retailers are focusing their efforts to get consumers into their shops again, given that British consumer confidence has reached pre-pandemic levels for the second month in a row according to GfK’s Consumer Confidence Index.

Other factors that could be affecting online shopping volumes and driving down conversion rates, which have dropped 23% compared to last year, are the recent supply chain challenges worldwide resulting in stock shortage and delayed delivery timelines, resulting in out-of-stocks on Ecommerce websites and worse customer delivery times.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: “There is some evidence that supply issues are exerting an influence over online trading. For several months running now, the average basket value has been up significantly on the same periods last year, meaning people are spending more per transaction than was the case previously. With conversion dropping, it suggests people are encountering out-of-stock items or not finding what they were looking for, but when they do find something in stock, they buy it without shopping around for a better price.

“A lower reliance on discounting to drive sales is interesting in the build-up to Black Friday – the discounting event of the year. It does seem highly likely that whatever a retailer’s plan for Black Friday stock was back in January, there will need to be some adaptation if they can’t get the right products in time to fit their campaign plans. It could be a year where stock runs down quickly, so retailers will need to be conscious that they don’t overpromise and end up frustrating customers.”



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 organization of 290,000 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, fueled 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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