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M-commerce sales fell by a fifth in April, while ecommerce remained subdued: IMRG

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M-commerce sales fell by a fifth in April, a month when warm weather combined with the Easter holiday failed to spark shoppers’ appetite for buying online, new figures suggest.

Sales via mobile devices fell by a “staggering” 20.5%, while ecommerce grew by 5.2%, in April, compared to the previous year, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index. That’s well behind the 12.5% growth shown at the same time last year – and last year, Easter took place in March.

The fall in m-commerce was unexpected because it goes against previous trends. IMRG says that after a fast start, mobile sales growth had started to slow in the last four years. But sales had lifted in the past two quarters, and in the first quarter of this year, m-commerce growth – on both smartphones and tablets – averaged 12.4% compared to the previous year. But in April, they fell by a “staggering” 20.5%. The fall, says IMRG, was more marked for online-only retailers (-39%) than multichannel (-8%) retailers selling through stores as well as online. 

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement at Capgemini, said: “Easter 2018 fell between March and April so we were hopeful the figures for April 2019 would be favourable (full Easter performance) given the slow performance in March – this did not seem to be the case given the 5.2% increase YoY. 

“If you compare March and April 2018 to March and April 2019 then the growth is  only 6.2%, which is still less than half the growth of April 2018 on April 2017.”

Unadkat added: “Looking ahead, we are approaching a strong May-July 2018 performance to benchmark against given the royal wedding, football World Cup and good weather, leaving retailers with the feeling of having a ‘mountain to climb’ next month and beyond.”

Hard-hit categories included electricals, where sales fell by 27% compared to last April, gifts (-22%), and health and beauty (-0.7%). Clothing sales grew by 6.7% in the sixth month in a row of single-digit growth for the category. Within that, sales of lingerie (-8.5%) and accessories (-2.6%) were both down. Over the first quarter of the year, online clothing sales grew by 3.2%, compared to growth of 13.9% in the first quarter last year. However, home and garden ecommerce sales did do well, probably as a result of hot weather, and grew by 13% during the month, 

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, said: “2018 was a tough year for retail generally as the industry appears to be undergoing an accelerating period of transformation. Online sales were strong in the first half of the year, but growth rates dropped toward the end of the year culminating in subdued trading over the Black Friday and Christmas peak. 2019 has seen a continuation of those trends, with clothing sales having a particularly difficult time; growth for this category has been low single-digit for six consecutive months for the first time since we started tracking it.

“There seems to be little sign of imminent improvement in shopper confidence; retailers will now be hoping that the warmer weather forecast over the coming weeks may stimulate greater demand, especially for those selling seasonal fashion lines.”

Image: Fotolia

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