YoY e-commerce sales dip overall in September but online clothing sales rise

Online clothing sales rose by 11.1 per cent YoY in September while overall retail sales dipped by -12.5 per cent, reveals the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index. Tracking the online sales performance of over 200 retailers, its figures reveal that the first week of September saw the steepest decline in e-commerce overall, with sales plummeting by -12.94 per cent. However, the month-on-month comparison was up for the first time since non-essential retail reopened in April with a rise of +2.1 per cent.

Experts say September’s subdued sales suggest consumers are browsing and not buying, possibly because of supply chain shortages and consumer caution or Christmas browsing starting earlier. This is evident when looking at the conversation rate, which was down from 3.9 per cent in September 2020 to 2.8 per cent for the same month this year.

At category level, beers, wines and spirits (+18.6 per cent), garden (+5.2 per cent) and clothing (+11.1 per cent) all maintained good levels of growth – and were the only ones to do so. Based on year-to-date patterns, this is expected to continue into the new year for these three categories. Meanwhile, as with last month, health and beauty was the worst performing of the group – down -32.7 per cent as part of a sustained downward trajectory.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Lead for Analytics and AI at Capgemini, comments: “Online sales were more subdued in September, and basket value decreased month on month for the first time this year. This has been reflected across the market alongside a dip in consumer confidence as back to school and a push for a ‘return to normal’ coincides with concerns on energy bills, costs, and tax hikes. Supply chains are also under significant strain, presenting challenges for retailers as we move into the peak trading period. How retailers will navigate the build up to black Friday and Christmas events will be crucial to manage availability of stock throughout the period and maintain customer service levels.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, adds: “Many retailers are reporting that Christmas searches on their sites started very early this year. One possibility for the relatively low performance in online sales in September may be related to that point. If shoppers were browsing for ideas in September, the purchasing may start to fall in October. The conversion on sites in September was down around 25 per cent on the same time last year, but that has been a trend across many months. If the purchasing accelerates early, it might spur some to launch their Black Friday campaigns even earlier than they did in 2020, which could lead to an extended event this year.”

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