Dec 10, 2021
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Fashion was star performer online in November

Dec 10, 2021

UK online retail may have experienced its worst month of sales growth ever in November – with almost every category down in double-digits – but at least clothing was in positive territory this time, albeit with a tiny rise of just 0.4%.

Photo: Pexels/Public domain

The latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index showed online retail sales fell by 19.8% year-on-year (YoY) last month – the lowest recorded ‘growth’ in 21 years of the Index.

That said, month-on-month sales grew by 40.4%, although this was still significantly lower than the 50% expected for this time of year.

The index tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers and some level of underperformance was only to be expected in November 2021 after the index saw a strong November 2020 (+36.2% YoY). But that comparison to October was particularly worrying as the start of the festive shopping season and Black Friday should have delivered better news.

Digging into the results further, there’s evidence that “consumers are both buying less often and spending less when they do, with the conversion rate down by 20% YoY to 3.3% and average basket value (ABV) falling to £123 (versus its 2021 peak of £149)”. 

With physical store sales up, it’s unsurprising that of the retailer types, multichannel brands suffered the most – with their sales plummeting by 23.4% compared to 13.4% for online-only retailers.
Meanwhile, as mentioned, every category bar clothing saw big falls – with gifts in particular down a huge 46.4%. 

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant - Retail Lead for Analytics & AI, Capgemini, said: “The drop in online sales this year is not unexpected however the month-on-month figures suggest that spending overall has been even more subdued.

“While a return to in-person shopping has taken a large share of the spend, other factors such as supplier shortages and delivery disruption have also caused retailers to spread and dilute some of the offers, which could be behind the decrease in conversion by 20% across November.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, added: “In retail we are often prone to focusing on the negatives, but there is no escaping that November’s performance was very poor. The most concerning thing is that traffic was the problem, shoppers were just not visiting retailers’ sites in their usual volumes. To an extent, that could be explained by people taking to big high street locations again, but the next few weeks will be very interesting in that respect. 

“There does seem to be an attitude of ‘getting it in before we get locked down’ at the moment, but from next week people will not want to go anywhere to avoid having to isolate over Christmas. We will, from a retail perspective, be in a lockdown in all but name, which will really skew trading figures.”

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