Wettest April on record depresses online clothing sales, e-Retail Index reveals

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Launch of iPad3 boosted online electrical sales in April

Launch of iPad3 boosted online electrical sales in April

UK shoppers spent an estimated £5.7bn online in April, a year-on-year growth of 10% and equivalent to £112.00 per person, according to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

Although this growth level comes in lower than IMRG and Capgemini’s 13% estimate for the year, April 2011 was a strong performing month, boosted by the Royal Wedding, with the market recording 19% growth and beer, wine and spirits up 55%.

While the market managed double-digit growth, the wettest April on record clearly impacted upon consumers’ desires to update their summer wardrobes as the clothing sector recorded growth of just 1%, the lowest in the 11 years it has been tracked in the Index.

This is some contrast with April 2011, which was the warmest April since 1910. The soggy weather did however have a positive impact on the travel sector, which saw sales jump 20% year-on-year, as Brits flocked online to search for dryer destinations.

As more and more retailers offer mobile-optimised websites to attract busy shoppers with easy and fast browsing/ordering, payment and delivery options, the number of Brits converting to mobile transactions increases, said researchers. As a visible outcome of this developing consumer trend, m-commerce in April registered a huge spike of 353% year-on-year, according to the index. 

The average conversion rate of m-commerce has been improving as well, said researchers. The conversion rate for m-retail in April 2012 (those shoppers that visit a retail site via a mobile device and make a purchase from it) was only 2.4% lower than the e-retail conversion rate, at 1.3% , compared with 0.8% in April last year. This suggests shoppers who would previously only browse mobile stores to check for bargains and compare prices, are now also making purchases via the channel.

The launch of the iPad3 at the end of March played a very positive role in helping the electrical sector reach a year-on-year growth of 26%, the highest since August 2010, according to the Index.

Sector % Change in Index Apr11 – Apr12 % Change March 2011 – April 2012
Total e-retail market 10% -2%
Beers, Wines and Spirits 1% 7%
Clothing, Footwear and Accessories 1% -5%
 – Accessories 34% -6%
 – Footwear 29% 14%
 – Lingerie 4% -8%
Electricals 26% 12%
Gifts 45% -22%
Health and Beauty 40% -8%
Travel 20% -2.4%

Chris Webster, head of retail and technology at Capgemini, said: “April was another month to maintain pace for online retail with sales growing 10% on the same month last year, despite the dampening effects of a wet and chilly weather. Consumers continue their steady march to migrate their purchases online which means the high street suffers the brunt of a slackening economy. Mobile commerce continues to surge ahead as the latest shopping trend of customers on the go. It would be a good strategic move for multi-channel retailers to power ahead with m-commerce and include it in their portfolio.”

Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG, said: “While the 10% annual growth recorded in April is lower than the 13% uplift seen in the first quarter, it should be noted this is on the back of a strong performance in April last year when online retail sales were up 19% year-on-year.

“The slowdown in sales of clothing over recent months may be an indication this sector is showing signs of reaching maturity. Year-to-date sales of clothing are up 10% year-on-year, compared with 28% annual growth recorded in the period January to April last year. On a more positive note, sales of electricals were at their strongest level in over 18 months, no doubt boosted by sales of the recently launched iPad 3.”