Online retail sales growth fell in February before the real impact of COVID-19 took hold, extending a weak start to 2020 for the sector.
In February UK online retail sales growth dropped by 0.4 per cent year-on-year, falling well below the three-month, six-month and yearly rolling averages, growing four per cent, 7.5 per cent and 5.3 per cent respectively, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.
Online only retailers faired much better than their pureplay online counterparts, seeing growth of 12.5 per cent compared to omnichannel retailers’ 8.2 per cent respectively.
This divergence between multi-platform retailers and online-only companies is expected to be further exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis, forcing people to turn to online deliveries in whilst practicing self-isolation.
By category clothing saw a 13.9 per cent growth, but this was helped by poor comparables in January which saw just 0.9 per cent growth.
Meanwhile gardening equipment performed worst, dropping 22 per cent due to the poor weather, while footwear also suffered a poor month seeing sales growth drop 7.6 per cent.
“We were already seeing a division opening up between the growth fortunes of multichannel and online-only retailers, and this might be a trend that becomes increasingly profound given the current climate,” IMRG’s strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy said.
“We can see this in groceries – the move over to purchasing them online has been steady but limited by capacity to fulfil. Now that stockpiling has driven demand to unprecedented levels, we may see a situation where shopper behaviour shifts over to that as a preferred channel very rapidly.
“Equally for general merchandise – with so little clarity over how long the current crisis will go on, people might have little choice but to switch all purchasing online.”