Online sales fell by 4.1% in August, compared to the same time last year – the 17th consecutive month of decline that has stretched from May 2021, the latest IMRG figures suggest.
In July, ecommerce sales had fallen by a relatively modest 2.3%, year-on-year. But that was reversed in August, as sales fell 6.2% compared to the previous month. So far this year, sales are 14% down on last year, according to the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales made by more than 200 UK retailers.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, says: “It’s been a difficult summer for online retail, with many retailers apprehensive about how performance is going to be over peak trading. The hope is that the energy cap announcement will do something to boost shopper confidence a bit before we get into November, but even then, the omens are not good. Usually, the amount of money spent online increases and decreases interchangeably in line with activity retailers are undertaking, but across July and August we recorded five weeks of decline, which is rare; there will need to be a great deal of sales growth to make up for Black Friday and peak to be positive.”
Sales fell across most categories. Clothing (+2.8%) was the only area where sales grew on last year. However this was a decline on July, when clothing (+11.9%) and womenswear (+20%) both grew more strongly. In August, the sharpest declines were in categories such as garden (-24.5%), beers, wines and spirits (-20.6%) that might usually be expected to perform strongly in the hot weather that characterised the month.
Simon Binge, commerce senior manager, customer transformation at Capgemini, says: “As we come to the end of a largely disappointing summer from a growth perspective, the focus turns to a critical peak trading period. While the prospect of promotional activity around Black Friday, the FIFA World Cup and Christmas should tempt shoppers to part with their hard-earned cash, retailers will continue to struggle with balancing rising costs and enticing discounts. We can see from Q2 that retailers are already being cautious with promotions, with only 33% of sales being generated by promotional activity or discounted price, vs 42% during the same period last year. With this in mind, retailers will need to explore other opportunities for increasing orders and basket value outside of deep discounts.”