Overall online retail sales in the UK were up 10.2% year on year in April, with clothing sales up 60.9%, in spite of a pick-up in physical retail as the lockdown loosens and non-essential retail reopening.
However, some of the impact of the reopening of the high street is evident in figures for April and March 2021, with overall online sales down -12% month-on-month, according to the latest findings of the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks online sales by more than 200 retailers.
A more detailed breakdown of apparel sales growth shows that online sales of womenswear rose 98.9% in April from a year earlier (compared with a sharp drop of 25.1% a year earlier). No doubt socializing and summer holidays will return to the agenda as the government relaxes restrictions.
On the other hand, health and beauty sales in April were down -9% year on year, while garden and electricity sales were down -13.3% and -3.7%, respectively, which are in strong contrast to the figures for 2020.
Andy Mulcahy, Director of Strategy and Insights at IMRG, said: "While online growth may have declined from 70-80% in the January-March period to 10% in April, this is largely due to the fact that the growth rate is now compared to the growth rate during the 2020 pandemic, which was very strong and difficult to continue to grow on the basis of this performance."
Retail sales in general appear to have held up well in April, with online growth now between average and good for this forecast. That will be a tougher test as people have more spending options in late May and June.
Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant at consultancy Capgemini Retail Insight, added: "Looking at the month-on-month figures, we can see the impact of the high street reopening. Despite the strong growth, which we normally expect to be flat in April compared to March, the April increase this year was -12%. This trend can also be seen in retail types, with multi-channel retailers down to +5.7% year on year in April, while online retailers maintained the same 20% growth seen at the beginning of the year."
Currently, apparel continues to rebound, with multi-channel and online apparel only growing + 50% and + 70%, respectively. Overall, the month was positive for retail as consumers started to come out of their homes. The online business remains key, although the next few months will be challenging.
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