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Online sales grew by 13% in April: IMRG

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Ecommerce returned to healthy growth in April, new figures from the IMRG suggest.

The IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index figures, which show online sales grew by 13% in April compared to the same time last year following four months of single-digit growth, come days after figures from the British Retail Consortium showed a similar picture of recovery after a lacklustre opening to the year.

Sales were also up – by 4% – compared to the previous month. That’s the highest rise growth in sales between March and April that the IMRG has recorded since 2007. Conversion rates were also up, reaching 4.6%.

Mobile sales grew by 52%, year-on-year, and by 8% compared to March.

“The return to double-digit growth during April has resulted in overall growth of 9% year-to-date for the UK online retail market,” said Tina Spooner, chief information office at IMRG .

“Although this is still below our 2015 growth forecast of 12%, a number of sectors continue to outperform the total market including footwear, lingerie and accessories. The latest results also reveal that online browsers converted at the highest rate for April since 2009 – helping to fuel the 3.9% month-on-month rise between March and April, where the established trend is for flat growth.”

In a survey of IMRG members, she said, retailers had identified a number of factors behind the slowdown earlier in the year. They included market maturity, increased competition, consumers holding out for sales in a period that saw less discounting, as well as political and economic uncertainty.

“It is too early to say,” she concluded, “whether the single-digit growth recorded in the first quarter was merely a blip and we will be monitoring developments very closely over the coming months.”

Despite the short-term slowdown, the long-term trend is certainly for huge growth in online retailing. Since this index was first launched 15 years ago, in April 2000, UK online sales have grown by 11,000%, and £640bn has been spent online.

This April, the fastest growth was in sectors including travel, up by 20% compared to last year.

Alex Smith-Bingham, head of digital, consumer products and retail at Capgemini said: “Today’s figures show a return to form for online retail. Shoppers are clearly more confident than ever and in the run up to the general election were feeling upbeat about their prospects for the future. The fact that conversion rates were so high goes to show that people weren’t just window shopping – they were going online ready to spend. With the economy continuing to improve I’m confident that online retail is on the up.”

Andy Harding, chief customer officer at House of Fraser , its April figures showed net multichannel sales rose by 51% in April, on last year. In the first three months of the year, they were up by 38.3% compared to the same period last year. “Our strong sales performance is testament to the ongoing development of our premium multichannel offer,” he said. “In fact we’ve recently instigated an industry-leading Buy & Collect proposition with an order cut-off at midnight for next day delivery to store. This improved service proposition helps set us apart from competitors. But it doesn’t stop here though, in fact we’ve lots of new and exciting developments to announce as we approach the second half of the year.”

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