UK online sales plummet as shoppers prepare for re-opening of physical stores

Online spending in the UK has plummeted since it was revealed that non-essential physical retail stores were due to re-open imminently.

The government unveiled its lockdown exit plan on May 11, suggesting for the first time that non-essential retail stores could open as soon as June 1.

Despite the government not solidifying its plans for reopening until earlier this week, the suggestion alone was enough to spark a massive drop in online spend.

UK online sales revenue growth dropped from 150 per cent during the height of lockdown to just 19 per cent in the week leading up to May 24, according to Emarsys.

READ MORE: Online grocery shopping hits all time high of £1.2bn with boon expected to continue “for the foreseeable future”

Growth in the number of online orders also fell drastically from 200 per cent to -4 per cent between May 10 and May 24.

Despite the major decline in growth, order value growth shot up from -51 per cent to 24 per cent, suggesting that the few purchases people were making were more expensive.

“During the lockdown period, online shopping has certainly helped offset some of the losses suffered by brands due to the closure of physical stores — but it hasn’t completely filled the void,” Emarsys senior vice president Alex Timlin said.

“With shops due to open again on the 15th, we can hopefully start to look forward to a sense of normality in the retail world, albeit slowly. The data we’re seeing from online sales indicates that consumers are ready to return to physical shops.”

In April, the UK’s first full month under lockdown, online sales jumped 23.8 per cent year-on-year to the highest level in 10 years, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.

Online grocery shopping also hit an all-time high of £1.2 billion throughout April and May as the lockdown forced nearly 5 million new households online.

In the four weeks to May 16th online grocery spend jumped a whipping 103 per cent year-on-year to hit record highs, accounting for 13 per cent of total grocery spending for the first time, according to new data from Neilsen.

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