Online sales growth begins to normalise in September

As lockdown restrictions were reintroduced throughout September, online sales returned to patterns that would be expected this time of year, according to the latest IMRG and Capgemini figures.

In comparison to the spending surges seen during phase one of the lockdown, last month recorded steady seasonal online sales growth of 42 per cent year-on-year – below the peak growth of 51 per cent in June.

At a category level, health and beauty and home and garden continued to perform well, with sales growing by 78.5 per cent and 76.3 per cent respectively.

Following the release of the PS5 and Xbox Series X games consoles, electrical sales were up 101.8 per cent. Meanwhile - perhaps in a nod to the seasonal change - overall clothing sales were up 7.9 per cent.

Echoing sales figures from the last six months, multichannel retailers continued to strongly outperform their online only counterparts, recording growth of 62.7 per cent versus 19.6 per cent.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, said that with rising infection rates and potential for more restrictions, the attractiveness of physical retail may decline further.

"This makes super Saturday - the busiest day leading into Christmas week - problematic, as that volume will have to be diverted away from places like Oxford Street to elsewhere; most likely online, with serious proximity to Christmas, so retailers and carriers will be hoping people spread their spending out to avoid that bottleneck.”

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant for retail insight at Capgemini, explained that higher frequency purchases are indicating new consumer behaviour patterns.

Basket values dropped 10 per cent in September, while year-on-year demand remained over 40 per cent growth, suggesting that the convenience of online channels is increasingly relied upon for day to day purchases.

"This leaves an interesting landscape ahead of Christmas, where the prospect of double-digit growth on top of peak sales days could cause retailers to seek ways to ease the pressure on delivery channels," she added.

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