Slow start to 2015 continues for online sales in February, IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows

The latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index have revealed that the slow start to the year for online sales continued in February, with year-on-year sales up just 6% and down 12% on January’s similarly disappointing performance (7%). This is in contrast to February 2014, when the Index recorded annual growth of 18%.

Online clothing sales were up just 4% year-on-year, compared to a much healthier 20% in February 2014, but other sectors performed more positively. Valentine’s Day helped boost sales in the sectors traditionally associated with romantic presents, including gifts which grew an impressive 30% month-on-month and 28% year-on-year. Similarly, the lingerie and health & beauty sectors saw a year-on-year jump of 22% and 19% respectively.

The alcohol sector also enjoyed strong growth in February following the end of ‘Dry January’, with online sales surging 42% on the same period last year; the highest annual increase recorded for this sector since April 2011.

Tina Spooner, chief information officer, at IMRG, said: “While the UK online retail market has seen a relatively weak start to the year, the latest results reveal a number of lower-ticket sectors performed well during February, including health & beauty, lingerie and gifts, which were no doubt boosted by Valentine’s Day.

“It is interesting to see that the high street / multichannel retailers have seen a stronger start to 2015 than their online-only counterparts, with online retail sales up 8% year-to-date, while the latter group have recorded just 2% year-on-year growth.  However, looking at the mobile commerce performance of these two groups, it is clear that the pureplay merchants are ahead, with annual growth in sales via smartphones and tablets reaching an average of 89% over the past six months, almost three times the growth rate recorded by the multichannel retailers.”

Alex Smith-Bingham, head of digital, consumer products and retail, Capgemini, said: “February’s Index would suggest there has been little cheer to be had for retailers so far this year. Subsequent months will show whether this is a new pattern of steady muted growth or a blip.  As we move into spring and out of the cold winter months, shoppers will be keen to update their wardrobes and make the most of the new clothing lines being introduced. As long as online retailers are prepared to make the most of the opportunity, we should see a gradual uplift begin in March.”