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Online sales defy snow and ice to grow by 16% in March: figures

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Online sales showed signs of healthy growth in March, despite unseasonal snow and ice outside.

The IMRG Capgemini Retail Sales Index for March found a 16% rise in internet sales last month, compared to the same time last year.

The etail trade association says last month rounded off a quarter in which online sales rose by 15% on the same period in 2012, beating previous expectations of a 12% boost. Notable growth came in the clothing category, where sales grew by 15%.

Sales through mobile smartphones and tablets resumed their previous fast growth, jumping by 243% year-on-year in the month. Average conversion rates fell to 1.8%, from 2.3% in February. That, said the IMRG, suggested users are looking at retail sites to research as well to buy.

“Unseasonal weather patterns can impact some online retail sectors just as much as on the high street,” said Andrew McClelland, chief operations and policy officer at IMRG , “so with the freezing weather in March it was a real surprise to see the clothing sector up by 15% year-on-year. In 2012, for example, we saw the wettest April on record and the online clothing sector was badly impacted, recording its lowest ever growth of 1%.

“What this demonstrates is that e-commerce is fairly unique in the retail industry as it doesn’t always reflect analysts’ expectations; online shopping is so engrained in the culture now, the market seems to keep up its double-digit growth irrespective of potentially disruptive external factors.”

Chris Webster, VP, head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini , said: “Despite the various challenges currently facing the wider retail sector, such as the weather and its subsequent impact on high street footfall, online is continuing to show its resilience.

“While the sector may at times slow or report a marginal annual increase, overall growth for both online and mobile has been relentless. As retailers continue to develop multichannel offerings and improve mobile services in line with an ever-evolving technology, the high street will struggle to match the performance of their online counterparts.”

More than 100 online retailers, from the Arcadia Group to Waitrose, contribute data to the IMRG Capgemini Index, which was started in April 2000 to track online sales.

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