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Online Retail Sales Growth Slumps to Lowest Level in 2018

The rise of the self-service customer: Why retailers need to give their customers greater freedom of choice
Written by Amy
  • Index increased by just +7.5% year-on-year (YoY) in September
  • Represents the lowest September growth since 2014
  • Total market growth averages: 3-month (10.1%), 6-month (13.6%), 12-month (12.3%)
  • Clothing performed well below the 5-year average for September (+2.2% vs +7.4%)

UK online retail sales experienced its lowest September growth (+7.5% YoY) since 2014 last month, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

Online sales have faltered since England’s World Cup Exit in July and the close of the hot summer, and despite a brief uplift around the August bank holiday, growth fell to a new 2018 low in September. For the third-quarter overall, online retail sales growth was up +10.1%; by comparison, in the second-quarter it was +17.1%.

The sector which felt the brunt of the fall in spending was Clothing, which at just +2.2% YoY performed significantly below the 5-year average for September of +7.4%. Meanwhile Gifts decreased by -23.0% YoY, in its biggest drop since March 2010, suggesting that wallets have tightened after a high-spending Q2.

Meanwhile the index for sales via smartphones continued to grow during September – increasing +16.1% on last year – however growth has slowed considerably against the +55.8% recorded last year, with the market reaching a greater level of maturity. Sales via tablets continued to plummet, hitting -22.5% YoY compared to +8.1% last year.

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement, Capgemini: This month’s performance was the lowest growth seen this year, however it was building on what was a strong performance in September last year (+13.0%).

“Back to school and new season launches seem to have had less of a draw for consumers despite weather being favourable. The clothing sector saw a drop in online visitation in September, though conversion and basket value increased, suggesting that a smaller customer base is driving the sales and customers are shopping on a more needs basis rather than impulse buys.

“Mobile commerce also dropped to a new low of +1.1% in September following significant decline in the last two months. Multichannel retailers hit a decline of -11.8% vs last year, compared to 8.8% in online only retailers.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG:Following such a strong start to the year for online retail sales, the third-quarter has come in notably lower at only +10.1%, and there are a few factors that may be influencing this.

“The strong second quarter, stimulated by events such as the Royal Wedding, World Cup, and heatwave, may have left people with less disposable income in quarter three. However, beyond that, shopper confidence appears to have fallen at a time when numerous retailers are putting out profit warnings and announcing store closures.

“Meanwhile, several retailers have spoken publicly about the scale of discounting that has been active across various retail sites, meaning that the industry is already heavily involved in discounting before we even get near to Black Friday. The conversion rate was markedly down in September; could it possibly be that people are already browsing for ideas, in the knowledge that Black Friday will inevitably bring heavier discounts?”

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