Online retail sales continued to show strong growth in March, soaring 71.7% year-on-year, despite the upcoming end of lockdown and promise of in-store shopping in April, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.
With last March coinciding with the start of lockdown, however, this growth must be put in the context of the resulting sales spiral, which saw overall growth fall to just 3.0% year-on-year.
According to the index, clothing had another good month with a growth of 75.9% as people began to ready their wardrobes for social occasions restarting. This was however measured against a decline of -18.9% in March last year.
Meanwhile, two of the past year’s strongest performers, electricals and health & beauty, witnessed a slowdown, recording only 78.5% growth (compared to a high of 206.6%) and 46.5% growth respectively.
Garden emerged as one of the “category winners”, however, with sales rising by 120.3% year-on-year as the easing of lockdown restrictions began to open gardens to guests for the first time this year, and consumers prepare for the sunnier weather.
Beers and wines was the only category to record negative growth, with sales slumping to 6.7% year-on-year. However, this tracks against figures of 105.7% for March 2020 as alcohol consumption soared amid the first lockdown.
Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Insight, Capgemini: “March continues to demonstrate strong overall online growth at +71.7%, however as we pass the anniversary of the first UK lockdown, the trends from the last 12 months have started to reach a turning point. Beers & wines was one of the initial categories to benefit, up +105% YoY in March 2020 but down -6.7% this year.
“In contrast, the clothing sector dipped to a record low in March last year (-18.9%) but this month all the clothing categories have reported the strongest growth in the last 5 years, up +75.9% overall. Not only is the comparator for clothing low, but sales will have also been boosted by new season releases, combined with a cautiously optimistic emergence from the latest and longest UK lockdown.”
She added: “As speculated, we are likely to continue to see a reversal of some of the recent highs and lows against an unprecedented year of category swings in 2020. This will be good news for the sectors which were hardest hit last year, and as stores open alongside an increase in consumer confidence this will hopefully provide a boost in overall spending, with an expectation that online will remaining central to our shopping habits.”