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Online Retail Sales Reach Twelve-Year High as E-Commerce Underpins the ‘New Normal’

05 Jun 2020

LONDON UK – June 5, 2020: COVID-19 continued to reshape the retail landscape in May, as consumers acclimatised to the enforced shift of shopping online. The UK’s second month under lockdown saw online retail sales swell to a twelve-year high, up a staggering +32.7% Year-on-Year (YoY) in May. That’s according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.

Last month’s results were overwhelmingly driven by soaring sales in three categories – home and garden, electricals, and beer, wine & spirit. Likely boosted by May’s record-breaking 266 hours of sunshine, home and garden sales were up +162.6% YoY and an equally huge +138% year to date (YTD). Meanwhile, as many employees adjusted to the extension of remote working policies, electricals reported its strongest sales on record – up a historical +102.8% YoY. Perhaps in a nod to the bank holiday sunshine, sales in beer, wine & spirit also climbed – up +94.9% YoY and +78.6% YTD.

Unfortunately, online clothing sales continued to feel the pressure of weak demand, down -9.8% YoY. Within this category, footwear sales were hardest hit (-16.4% YoY), but womenswear and menswear were also down -14.7% and -14.4% respectively.

Taking a closer look at the results by retailer type, last month’s stellar sales were once again largely generated by multichannel outlets. As they continued to pivot their focus towards online sales, multichannel retailers outperformed their online only counterparts with sales up +53.1% versus +10.1%.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Insight, Capgemini:

The demand patterns from April continued through to May, with some product sectors seeing extraordinary sales growth and others still in decline. The months most outstanding performance came from the Garden market, reporting a 163% YoY increase, even beating its last period of extraordinary growth during the 2018 summer heatwave. The Electricals market also recorded its highest ever YoY growth since the IMRG Capgemini Sales Index began tracking the sector in 2003. The ‘stay at home’ message has boosted sales of office equipment, games consoles and televisions.

The clothing sector has struggled throughout the lockdown period as shoppers move their focus away from personal fashion, and towards home improvement and home entertainment. This month saw a decline of -9.8%, however the silver lining for clothing retailers in May, is a healthy 37.6% uplift from April, indicating shoppers are showing an increasing interest in updating their wardrobes as lockdown relaxes, time will tell if a gradual return to the ‘new normal’ aid the recovery for clothing to positive growth.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: “There has been a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’ and, after two months of exceptional growth rates for online retail, we have to speculate as to what that might be in a retail sense as the shops start to open again. Will online be able to retain its share and, if so, to what extent?

“There are two aspects that will greatly influence the answer to that question – demand and culture. Much spend has been forced online, and often in an artificially-inflated way; the huge spike in freezer sales will be a blip for example. We might expect online demand to remain much stronger over the longer-term however, and that online growth has been achieved with clothing, a major category, in negative growth. Once demand returns there, will it be in stores – where 30-minute queues to get in will quickly become tiresome – or online, which is by its very nature socially-distanced? It seems reasonable to assume demand and culture will have been forever altered.”


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

A global leader in consulting, technology services and digital transformation, Capgemini is at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud, digital and platforms. Building on its strong 50-year heritage and deep industry-specific expertise, Capgemini enables organizations to realize their business ambitions through an array of services from strategy to operations. Capgemini is driven by the conviction that the business value of technology comes from and through people. It is a multicultural company of over 200,000 team members in more than 40 countries. The Group reported 2018 global revenues of EUR 13.2 billion.