IMRG: Online retail grows by 24% as COVID-19 redefines shopping

Following the UK’s first full month under lockdown, April’s online retail sales results have signalled a big shift in purchasing patterns with growth pegged at a 10-year high – up +23.8% Year-on-Year (YoY). That’s according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.

Taking a closer look at the results, the spike in sales was overwhelmingly driven by multichannel retailers. After recording higher growth than their online-only counterparts for the first time in a year in March, multichannel retailers continue to benefit from consumers’ changing shopping habits – with sales up +35% versus online-only retailers’ more modest rise of +8.3%.

Breaking down the figures at a category level, the unusually hot April weather (combined with lockdown) triggered a monumental rise in gardening sales. Building upon March’s +94.4% YoY growth, this month’s sales were up an unprecedented +288%. Meanwhile, electrical sales sparked an equally impressive +102% growth – likely indicative of remote working requirements and demand for at-home entertainment as consumers get familiar with home isolation. Further to their success in February and March, health & beauty sales also continued to soar – with growth of +82%.

The story was not quite so positive for the clothing sector, with felt the impact of COVID-19 on its monthly sales for the second time as they sunk -23.8% from April 2019. Within this, footwear and menswear sales were particularly poor, down -31.1% and -33.5% respectively.

April’s data shows that demand is following a very logical pattern – with stores closed, people who would usually shop in physical locations have no choice but to switch online. Hence it is the multichannel retailers who are securing the very strong growth at the moment, though whether it will be enough to entirely offset the loss of sales from those stores seems unlikely. This is only true for some categories though; even with stores closed, online growth for multichannel clothing retailers is still down -17.5%. The demand just isn’t there at the moment.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG