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Record-breaking January Sees Highest Online Sales Since Pandemic Began

09 Feb 2021

LONDON UK – 09 February 2021: Despite the tightening of lockdown measures across the UK, January recorded the highest online sales since the pandemic began at +74% Year-on-Year (YoY) – and the highest January sales on record since 2008. That’s according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.

This boom in sales was reflected across all categories, with health & beauty and beer & wine sales up +102% YoY and +105% YoY respectively. Perhaps in a nod to parents stocking up on learning-from-home essentials, electrical sales remained extremely high at +206% YoY. As January discounts rolled out widely even clothing sales, which have suffered throughout each of the lockdowns, recorded their highest growth since 2017 at +22% YoY.

Other notable spending trends in January include the surge in online-only retail sales, as consumers navigate the total shut down of the high street. While the gap between multichannel and online-only has widened since the viral outbreak, the latter surged to a pandemic high of +31.2% YoY. Similarly, mobile commerce was up +169.1% – the highest rise in spending since 2013.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Insight, Capgemini: “75% Year-on-Year growth is the highest we’ve seen in any month across the whole of the pandemic and almost 10 times the growth in January last year. January typically sees more subdued sales and a drop off from Christmas trading, however, the anticipation of a ‘return to normal’ met the reality of challenges in an ever-evolving pandemic and customers once again turned to online shopping during the third national lockdown. Electrical online sales hit a new record for the sector at +206%, potentially related to parents sourcing the technology needed to power homeschooling and entertainment. Meanwhile, an uptick in clothing performance is promising for the sector which was hard hit last year, perhaps the anticipation of a change in the new year boosted by sales and new season products.  

“The gap between retailers who thrived last year and those who were struggling to survive is becoming clear as news of brand consolidations are hitting the headlines with a focus on online value over the physical estates; what this means for the high street is yet to be determined, however, it is clear that digital interactions will further dominate the future shopping experience.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: “The big change in online volumes was recorded between March and April when the month-on-month (MoM) growth rate (which measures whether more or less money was spent in that month than the previous one) was up +37%; it is usually flat between March and April. Since then the MoM rate has been much closer to where we’d expect it to be each month, which tells you that volume shifted online and has stayed there. Between December 2020 and January 2021 we’ve seen another big MoM gap appear, where the decline in volume following Christmas was only -20%, whereas it is usually around -35%. The introduction of the third lockdown, which is much stricter than the second, has served to supercharge online sales again for almost every product category – there were seven that recorded year-on-year growth of 170%+ in January.”



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 the 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 consulting, digital transformation, technology, and engineering services. The Group is at the forefront of innovation to address the entire breadth of clients’ opportunities in the evolving world of cloud, digital and solutions. 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. A responsible and multicultural company of 265,000 people in nearly 50 countries, Capgemini’s purpose is to unleash human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. With Altran, the Group reported 2019 combined global revenues of €17 billion.

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