Following a month of improved sales in June, retailers failed to maintain the positive momentum in July, with online sales growth slowing to just +4.4% Year-on-Year (YoY) and falling by -5.7% Month-on-Month (MoM), according to the latest IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers. Despite the scorching weather and notable online shopping events like Amazon Prime Day, these figures represented the lowest ever July YoY increase, and came in well below the 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month rolling averages (respectively +4.9%, +4.9%, +6.5%).
Delving into the categories, clothing sales followed a similar pattern to the overall result, with positive growth of +4.5% failing to match June’s 2019 high of +15.7% or the 5-year average of +8.6%. After recording its strongest performance of the year in June (+31.2%), menswear saw a significant drop in growth to just +10.4%. Meanwhile, both accessories and womenswear were down (-13.3% and -8.7% respectively), and womenswear saw its average basket value decrease by a third compared to last year.
Looking elsewhere, even the hottest day of the year did little to boost categories like BWS and home and garden, both of which recorded negative growth in July. With no World Cup to spark celebrations and commiserations, BWS was down -19.7% compared to its strong performance last July (+32.9%). Garden sales also fell by -44.6% (compared to +22% in 2018), contributing to a low overall growth for home and garden of +5.4%.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, said: “Online sales growth had been subdued throughout the first half of 2019, but in June there seemed to be a bit of a bounce-back that hinted toward growth picking up again. However, there is now evidence that the June performance was artificially inflated by heavy discounting to stimulate sales activity, and it seems likely that some of that volume was pulled forward from July.
There is usually a dip between June and July, but this year it was down -5.7%, a sharper decline than the five-year average of -1.1%. The clearest indication came from clothing, which recorded its strongest growth in over a year in June (+15.7%), but the average basket value (ABV) was down around 25%, suggesting that the rise was driven by discounting. In July the ABV held up for clothing but growth was just +4.5%, with shoppers being less responsive to their campaigns, while womenswear retailers were having to work very hard to drive sales – the ABV decreased by around a-third versus last year.”
Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement, Capgemini, said: “July disappoints after a better June performance, falling back to +4.4 vs last year which is just below the average performance for the year of +5.4%. Over the last three months pure online retailers have fared better than multichannel players online, maintaining consistent growth above +8%. This compares to a much more volatile performance, jumping from -0.1% to +8% in May to June, and +4% in July, indicating that multichannel online sales are more sensitive to sales activity as consumers seek out the best deals.
The outlook remains uncertain for retailers into half two as consumer spending is cautious and confidence low, yet GFK has reported that the major purchase index has increased six points back into positive territory this month. This could hint that customers will be more willing to make considered purchases over the coming months rather than impulse buys. As we lead into the peak season retailers will therefore need to focus on winning share of wallet amongst an increasingly competitive online market.”