With high-street sales declining across the world, online sales have performed sharply in the first quarter of 2018, driven by 22% growth in mobile sales, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.
Smartphone sales dominated all other digital channels in March, says the research, with some 58% of overall sales were conducted by mobile – a reported 39% YoY increase in comparison to 42% of transactions that were conducted via tablets, down by 2% from previous year.
Overall, online retail sales grew by 19% in March, marking the highest YoY growth since November 2016.
A number of contributing factors helped to drive the month’s sales, starting with the continued ‘beast from the East,’ and an early Easter bank holiday. The weekly analysis by the same body of the research revealed that growth double in the final week over Easter, surging from a steady increase of 13% to 27% surge.
While all sectors demonstrated YoY growth in March, there were a few standout performances. Grocery sectors saw boosts in sales for clothing and beer as well as wine and spirits, up by 17% and 27% respectively. For beer, wine and spirits this was the highest rise in the last five years.
Electrics also stayed ahead of the game last month, reversing a five-year trend of decline to record growth of 22%. In the month when Sumsung launched Galaxy S9, this could signify a concerted effort by smartphone manufacturers to intensify their promotions.
“It’s possible to read this month’s results as a simple story of online continuing to benefit from the decline of the high street – which is nothing new of course, but it may be that we are seeing an acceleration of this as we’ve moved into 2018," says Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG.
He continues: "At the same time it could just be a blip – Easter falling in March will likely have pushed up online growth (and, by extension, it may come in far lower in April) plus the weather has at times brought heavy snowfall and prolonged rainfall."
Mulcahy concludes: “If the strong growth is sustained into April, it would be tempting to conclude that we may have entered a new retail era – where store portfolios are going to be reduced faster under a far more radical programme of store consolidation than we have seen thus far, with digital transformation going high up board agendas and more ‘digital transformation director’ job titles appearing."
"But what does that mean for the high street? It’s important to remember that shopping centres have generally performed better than high streets recently, so it’s not that physical retail spaces can’t work. The question is – if retail were to start again entirely from scratch tomorrow, what would a retailer’s physical space look like? Would they be shops in the traditional sense, using all the space to market stock? Would we actually even create high streets again?”