Weakest August in 15 years for online retail sales, latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index shows

The latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index have revealed that UK online retail sales were up just 5% year-on-year (YoY) last month and down 6% on July. Whilst it follows a particularly strong August 2014 (18%), it does mark the weakest performing August since the launch of the Index in 2000; potentially the result of a later Bank Holiday (which will be included in the September Index results this year) and a delay in back-to-school shopping. Despite this dip however, the Index has seen a solid year-to-date increase of 10%.

Low growth was recorded across a number of sectors in August, including clothing. Despite a slightly turbulent start to the year, clothing experienced a return to double digit growth in June (18%) and July (14%).  However, online sales of clothing recorded an annual growth of just 5% last month; its lowest ever performance for the month of August.

Accessories, which is traditionally one of the more robust and stable sectors, saw an increase of just 14%; its lowest increase since August 2009. Sales of electrical items continued its run of limited growth – whilst August saw an increase of 6% on July, it recorded a 1% drop on the same period last year, its weakest YoY performance in 2015. However there were more positive figures recorded in the health & beauty, gifts, and home sectors, which were up 30%, 23% and 31% YoY respectively.

Sales made via a mobile device saw an increase of 33% in August. The Index revealed an emerging trend in regard to the split of mobile device used for making online sales. In 2014, smartphones accounted for 20% of m-retail sales, compared to 80% made via a tablet device. In 2015, the balance has shifted, with 28% of sales made via a smartphone, compared to 72% made on a tablet.

Alex Smith-Bingham, head of digital, consumer products and retail, Capgemini, said: “The height of summer usually drives customers online or in-store to update their wardrobes in preparation for their holidays or simply to make the most of the British sunshine.  However, with just 5% growth, for both the clothing sector and the wider industry, the disappointment of August’s performance would have been felt across the whole retail sector. We predict this will be short-lived however, as the late Bank Holiday and back-to-school shopping should give September’s Index a significant boost.

Tina Spooner, chief information officer, IMRG: “2015 was slow to start for online retail sales, and we wondered whether we had entered a new phase of lower growth when the Index recorded its first-ever quarter of single-digit growth (+7%) in Q1. However, growth has been far more positive since then and it’s likely that the record August low was actually a blip caused by a number of factors. A feature of 2015 has been lower average basket values, but over the past two months these have recovered and conversion rates remain at their highest level in years as we approach the crucial peak period.

“Looking ahead, we expect September’s Index results to be back on track with our 2015 growth forecast, considering it will on the back of single-digit growth during September 2014.”