Online sales up 10% in February 2012 but driven by pure players, Index reveals

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Figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index reveal shoppers in the UK spent a total of £5.4bn (equivalent to £106 per person) online during February 2012; up 10% on the same time last year, but representing a growth rate of just half that recorded in February 2011 (20%).

The 10% year-on-year growth of the Index marks the slowest rate reported since January 2010. However, this figure does come off the back of a particularly strong February 2011. This slowdown may also be attributable to other factors, such as the gradual phasing out of heavy discounts/sales prominent during December and January.

Valentine’s Day helped boost sales in the e-retail sectors traditionally associated with romantic presents, including gifts which grew an impressive 26% month-on-month and 22% year-on-year. Similarly, the lingerie and health and beauty sectors saw a year-on-year jump of 27% and 32% respectively, indicating while British shoppers are tightening belts in response to ongoing economic uncertainty, they are happy to splash out on treats for their loved ones.

The clothing sector has continued to perform at an unusually low level for the fourth consecutive month, recording just 9% year-on-year growth in February. However, like the wider Index, this is on the back of a strong February 2011, which recorded a particularly high 34% growth  The sale of alcohol online has grown on January, jumping a significant 21%, suggesting the post-Christmas detox is well and truly over.

Growth in February came from a repeat high performance for online-only/catalogue retailers, who recorded year-on-year growth of 13%, exceeding the multi-channel/high street retailers (defined as having both an online and a bricks and mortar presence), who recorded growth of just 8%. This is the second consecutive month that online–only/catalogue has outperformed multi-channel/high street retailers. 

Chris Webster, head of retail consulting and technology, Capgemini UK, said: “It is interesting to see the growth of online-only retailers exceeding that of the multi-channel. Low footfall and a disappointing performance on the high street could be affecting the multi-channel retailers’ online counterparts. Online-only retailers’ rapid innovation and adoption of growth areas in e-retail, driven by mobile and click ‘n’ collect, seem to have put them ahead once again; now is the time for the multi-channel retailers to respond.”

Tina Spooner, chief Information officer at IMRG, said:  “Although growth in e-retail sales was lower than expected in February, it has to be considered in the context of the 20% rise seen in February 2011, so double-digit growth is still a positive result.

“It appears evident from the sales growth recorded by online-only/catalogue retailers over recent months consumer confidence in the online channel is increasing. These results suggest consumers who may have initially looked to trusted high street brands when shopping online for the first time are now becoming more confident in purchasing from pure-play e-retailers. It is also interesting to note the average e-retail spend for online-only/catalogue retailers is 10% higher than during the same month last year, while for multichannel/high street it is actually 8% lower.”

Sector % Change Month-on-Month % Change Year-on-Year Feb11 – Feb12
Total E-Retail Market -10% 10%
Beers, Wines and Spirits 21% 9%
Clothing, Footwear and Accessories 2% 9%
 – Accessories -5% 30%
 – Footwear -2% 0%
– Lingerie 2% 27%
Electricals -14% 3%
Gifts 26% 22%
Health and Beauty 2% 32%
Other -21% 13%