UK shoppers spent £5.5bn online in September, 15% more than at the same time last year, according to new figures. But while shoppers are spending more online, they are spending on smaller purchases rather than big-ticket items, found the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.
So far this year, £47bn has been spent online. Sectors selling smaller items such as clothing, up by 21% in September compared to the same time last year, home and garden goods (40% up) and alcohol (16%) have benefitted most strongly. But those selling big ticket items saw some falls, with travel up by 4% but down by 17% month-on-month.
Chris Webster, head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini, said: “Reviewing the results in September, at the end of the third quarter provides us with a good opportunity to assess how the economic turbulence is affecting the shopping habits of British consumers in 2011. It appears that rather than cutting back entirely, we have been more conscientious in our purchases. Faced with uncertainty, shoppers are prepared to cut back on luxuries but not from shopping altogether.
“Smaller items such as clothing and items for the home are considered rewards for our belt tightening or just more sensible purchases.”
David Smith, chief marketing and communication officer at IMRG, said: “The tough times for the travel sector are showing little sign of improving any time soon, with consumers focusing on home improvements rather than going on holiday. This is borne out by the strong yearly growth in the home and garden sector, the second consecutive month that it has recorded a rise of 40%. It is clear that both the stagnation in the housing market and the continuing uncertainty over the economic recovery are influencing consumer behaviour in the online market.”
The IMRG figures also look back over the year to detect trends. Thus, clothing sales grew by 27% in the first quarter, 29% in the second quarter and 23% in the fourth quarter. Lingerie sales rose by 17% in the first quarter, 28% in the second and 29% in the third.
Faring less well was the electricals sector, where sales were running at 18% growth in the first quarter but slowed to 8% growth in the second and 2% in the third.
Smith added: “While consumer confidence in the online market was high in the first half of 2011, with the index recording growth of 19% on the first half of 2010, there has been a slight dip in terms of growth levels. We are now forecasting a 16% rise for the market for 2011 as a whole, revised down from our 18% forecast at the beginning of the year, which would equate to around 12-14% for the fourth quarter. This will still be an impressive performance, as it is off the back of a very strong fourth quarter in 2010.”
Chris Simpson, chief marketing officer at Kelkoo, said: “With summer sun stretching into Autumn alongside reports that homeowners are shying away from moving, online retailers have been able to reap the rewards in the Home & Garden sector, which has seen a 40% increase year on year. Alcohol sales have also benefited from the warm weather as people catered for BBQs and entertaining at home rather than going out. When it comes to clothing, although the unexpected hot spell at the beginning of October is likely to have temporarily affected Autumn clothing sales for next month’s index, overall the results point to a positive outlook for the rest of the year.”
Russ Carroll, UK managing director of Shopping.com, said: “Home appliances such as kettles, heaters and irons showed strong growth in September, a sign that people were starting to prepare for winter despite the unexpectedly warm weather. Clothing once again showed very strong year on year growth, confirming that buying clothes online has well and truly arrived.”
Jonathon Brown, head of online selling at John Lewis, said: "September was another strong month for John Lewis online, delivering growth of over 25% across categories. Although we saw transition from summer to autumn, the weather missed this point and especially as we got to the end of the month the Indian summer inevitably impacted our growth. However it was great to see that fashion, an area most affected by seasonal changes, still delivered over 50% growth on last year."