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September online retail performance reflects a complicated macro environment

12 Oct 2022
  • UK online retail sales were down -3.3% Year-on-Year (YoY) in September – slightly better than the results of August, albeit still negative
  • Though below the 3-month average (-2.2%), this performance is still ahead of the 6- (-4.7%) and 12-month (-11.8%) averages
  • Month-on-Month (MoM) growth was up +5.4% against August, in line with previous years
  • Year-to-Date (YTD) sales are down -12.9% – a small +1.1% improvement from the August position

London UK- 11th October 2022: The online retail market continued to see negative-on-negative Year-on-Year (YoY) growth in September, with UK sales down -3.3%. That’s according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks online sales for 200 retailers. Though this represented a slight improvement on August’s -4.1% result, the performance was not significantly different to that recorded for the past four consecutive months. It also compared to September 2021 growth of +6.8% YoY.

On the whole, September was a complicated month for gauging customer confidence. The UK had 10 days of national mourning following the death of the Queen on 8th September, which happened on the same day the energy cap freeze was announced. This was followed by the Government’s mini-budget of wide-ranging tax cuts a few weeks later. How that balances against declines in the pound and rising interest and mortgage rates will become more evident over the coming period, but at least immediately the Month-on-Month growth between August and September came in where it should (up +5.4%) for this time of year. While this could be seen as a  positive indicator moving into peak trading – as could the £5 rise in the average basket value (ABV) – the conversion rate remains down on last year and unresponsive to retailer activity. 

In terms of online categories, clothing was the only one to see positive growth in September, rising from +2.8% in August to +4.3%; this didn’t reflect in all its sub-categories, however, with menswear still struggling at -3% (though up from -7.1% in August). Elsewhere, electricals (-8.2%) remained consistent – recording a difference of only 0.7 percentage points against August; and gifts fell -9.3%. The heaviest declines in September were for beer, wines and spirits (-27.3%) and garden (-19.3%).

Even though September presented many macro variables, the Year-to-Date (Jan-Sep 2022 vs Jan-Sep 2021) figure remained fairly flat at -12.9%, which was only a +1.1% improvement from August.

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG: September featured such economic turbulence that it’s very difficult to understand whether shopper confidence has risen, fallen or stayed the same. However, one definite positive was a spike in online spend toward the end of the month when retailers promote their ‘100 days till Christmas’ campaigns. The spend was +17% higher in week four – the second highest rate of the past four years for that period. That at least suggests customer interest and responsiveness; we can’t know how the turbulence will unfold over the next few key months for retailers, but if that spike had not occurred this year, it would have been very concerning.”

Simon Binge, Commerce Senior Manager, Customer Transformation at Capgemini: Despite an eventful month of disruption for UK shoppers, the online retail market performed largely in line with the previous four months, with an average -3.3% YoY sales decline for July to September.  Whilst overall spend displays a small decline YoY, if we explore this a little deeper we can see evidence of shoppers trading down, with the mid-market retail sector being the clear beneficiary. The premium market sector saw a YoY revenue decline of -15.1% for September, but the mid-market sector was relatively flat (-0.2% YoY), building on a similar story from previous months (+0.1% August, +3.5% July). Whether the premium sector can entice shoppers back during the next few months of expected promotional activity or the mid-market sector continues to win the battle for the wallet remains to be seen.”

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.

About IMRG

For over 20 years, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) has been the voice of online 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 indices provide in-depth intelligence on online sales, mobile sales, delivery trends and over 80 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 350,000 team members in more than 50 countries. With its strong 55-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 2021 global revenues of €18 billion.

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