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Online sales grew by 15% in February: IMRG

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Online sales grew by 15% in February, compared to the same time last year, according to the latest figures from the IMRG.

The figure continued the momentum of last February, when sales grew by 16%, according to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

Sales via smartphones grew by 57% over the same period, but this represented a slowdown from growth of 96% a year earlier. In recent years, mobile commerce has driven retail sales growth, but this is the third month in a row the rate of growth via smartphones has roughly halved. Sales via tablets grew very slowly, at 3.5%.

However, IMRG says the slowdown in growth through mobile devices was specific to online-only retailers. For multichannel retailers, which sell both online and in-store, the growth in sales via mobile devices was up slightly year-on-year.

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement design at Capgemini , said: “It was positive to see a solid growth rate for online retail in February 2017, building on a strong February 2016 growth rate of 16%. However, there was a slight dip in the growth rate this month, and that could be attributed to a knock in consumer confidence triggered by higher prices. It is perhaps no coincidence that the Index’s growth rate slumped slightly in the face of a higher inflation rate which was over 1.5% in January 2017 compared with 0.3% in January 2016.

“Although there are some warning signs for the retail industry — with sales made on smartphones falling month-on-month, for example — these are trends we’ve seen echoed in previous years. Traditionally January and February are slower months for purchases made on smartphones, and e-retail sales in general.”

As overall online sales grew, so too did average basket values. They were at a seven-year high for the month. Multichannel retailers benefited in particular, with average basket values up by £20 compared to a year earlier.

Across sectors, sales for electricals were up +1.5%. The average basket value was down £8 year-on-year, however.

Justin Opie, managing director, IMRG , said: “It’s encouraging to see the second month of seven-year highs for average basket values in a row. When it comes to smartphones though, the slowdown in sales growth does appear to be fairly dramatic. That said, rates of smartphone growth over the past two years have been very high, and that couldn’t continue indefinitely. The slowdown is specific to the online-only retailers — multichannel retailers are performing better than they have been through mobile, with greatly increased average basket values.

“So it remains positive, but perhaps with a cloud or two on the horizon. Smartphones have been the driver of mobile growth, and the slowdown could come to impact growth. And, of course, the ever-present uncertainty of Brexit looms large in 2017, with inflation rising and the widely-expected imminent triggering of Article 50 to come.”

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