Online retail sales performance in 2019 was the worst ever recorded despite an unexpected boost in December.
For the full year online retail sales grew just 6.7 per cent, the lowest growth since records began in April 2000 according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.
This compares to growth of 11.8 per cent in 2018 while failing to meet forecasts made at the start of the year of nine per cent growth.
These figures could have been even lower if it wasn’t for a standout performance in December, which along with a strong November helped boost Q4 performance.
December saw online sales jump 9.4 per cent year-on-year, helping uplift the final quarter’s overall growth rate to 11.3 per cent.
It also helped boost overall performance in the second half of the year, growing 7.6 per cent after a dismal 5.4 per cent growth in the first half.
“If online retail in 2018 was characterised by strong growth in the first half and weak in the second, 2019 is the year when Black Friday quite possibly papered over retail’s cracks,” IMRG’s strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy said.
“A solid December, albeit against weak Year-on-Year growth in 2018, off the back of an explosive November have made the full-year result look much better at +6.7%; lower than our forecast of +9%, but nowhere near as bad as it was looking a few months’ back.”
Despite the strong year-on-year growth December still saw the greatest month-on-month decline since Black Friday started in 2013, albeit against an outstandingly strong 16.4 per cent growth in November.
Online retailers still performed dramatically better than their multichannel counterparts, seeing sales growth of 10 per cent compared to 5.9 per cent respectively.
Looking ahead, online retail sales growth for 2020 is forecast to come in at 7.8 per cent.
“The final quarter has been a lot more positive for online sales growth than it has looked for a long time, plus we’ve had the election and Brexit should actually, finally, become something,” Mulcahy added.
“There are also major sporting events galore in 2020 which could stimulate retail spending. Have we turned a corner then, or is it the case that the fundamental problems affecting retail are still yet to be solved in any meaningful way? Time will tell.”