Ecommerce grows at its fastest rate since 2007 as lockdown and peak trading discounting combine

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The combination of a second lockdown and peak trading pushed November’s online sales to their fastest growth since 2007, IMRG figures suggest today. Ecommerce grew by 39% in November 2020, compared to the same month in 2019, while m-commerce sales were 110% up on the same time last year, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index. 

Last November, online sales were themselves up by 20% in a month that proved the strongest of 2019, according to the IMRG index. This year, they were 58% up on the previous month of October. M-commerce sales in 2019, meanwhile, were 9% down on the previous year.

The growth was well ahead of the recent trend (+34% over the last three months) and came as high street shops were closed for much of the month in England and for part of the month in Wales, and as Black Friday discounting kicked in. There was also some evidence of shoppers buying in bulk – perhaps stocking up under the shadow of a no-deal Brexit– with the average basket size of £98 up from £75 in November 2019. 

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, says: “Although the rate of growth in November was lower than we’ve seen at other times this year, you have to bear in mind that November volumes are far, far higher than over the spring and summer. For this reason, it was actually a huge month for online growth, especially since it built on a strong rate of growth in 2019. It was also the highest November growth rate since 2007 – and there have been some huge Novembers since Black Friday arrived in the UK.

“The positive news for retailers is that the actual monetary spend was the highest we’ve ever recorded in our index – shoppers started spending early in November and continued to do so right the way through the month. It has led, as expected, to some delivery delays. One area of concern will be the fact that sales growth online remained very strong (+52%) in week one of December, so the volumes are still incredibly high as we approach Christmas, causing further pressure for carriers.”

Sales were strong in categories including electricals (+72.8%), garden products (+127%) and homeware and decorations (+154%). Footwear (-9.1%) was the only category to see a fall. 

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant, retail insight, at Capgemini, says: “The first few weeks in November were particularly strong, as retailers started their discounts significantly earlier than previous years. The second lockdown meant that high street doors were closed once again across England, and the focus online meant that retailers needed to spread the demand across the period to cope with peak sales. 

“This year has seen a shift in consumer demand in product categories; electricals and home continued to outperform in November, boosted by entertainment releases and the outlook of winter nights ahead. Increased spending over the holiday period may also provide relief for some retailers from customers who have been able to save throughout lockdowns; we have seen that the basket value was 30% higher this November than in 2019. As we move into December, online and operations will be a differential in the run up to Christmas and although spending patterns remain unpredictable for the foreseeable future, there is no doubt that the significance of digital-led shopping experiences and habits are here to stay.”

The IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index tracks the online sales performance of more than 200 retailers. 

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