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Online spending growth slumps to record low in September

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The latest monthly IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index reveals that online spending rose by 7.6% in September when compared with last year, but by only 1.9% when compared to August 2009.

UK consumers spent a total of £3.9billion online in September. This is lower than the average month-on-month increase for September, says IMRG Capgemini , as shoppers exercise more caution ahead of Christmas and as the recession continues to influence consumer spending. Postal strikes have also acted as a deterrent for online shoppers, and will continue to be a key concern for etailers in the lead up to Christmas, say the researchers.

Clothing, footwear and accessories sector sales stuttered, with sales rising by just 10% compared to last year (average year-on-year growth for this sector so far in 2009 has been 20%). This has impacted on overall growth rates for the Index as a whole as the sector traditionally acts as a key driving force for growth. Customers were lured away from the internet as September saw many retailers launch their promotional activity earlier this year. The high street reported an upturn in sales for the month.

Above-average temperatures could also have been a reason for shoppers to abandon their computer screens in favour of the high street — with the Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday falling into the September trading period this year.

E-retailers of electrical goods also saw an unusual slowdown in growth for September, with sales rising by 14% compared to last year.

“The results for September show a slowdown in the growth of online spending but we view this as a temporary blip and expect growth rates to return to the 15% year-on-year trend we have seen over the last year,” says Mike Petevinos, head of consulting for retail at Capgemini UK. “The underlying trend is still that consumers are turning to the internet to make more informed purchase decisions.”

“Our latest stats should, however, act as a call to arms to multi-channel retailers, who enjoy higher basket sizes than the pure players but are not achieving the conversion rates online of their more focused competitors,” he added. “As competition increases the pressure on converting the consumers who hit your site should be a constant priority.”

“Although we have seen a dip in yearly growth during September, the online retail sector grew 13% in the third quarter and year-to-date the Index has grown 14% from last year,” explained Tina Spooner, director of information at IMRG. “The slowdown in e-retail growth during September indicates that consumers are being cautious ahead of the festive shopping season. The fine autumnal weather also appears to have had an impact on internet sales with increased footfall reported on the high street.”

“It’s clear that our customers are increasingly shopping online and enjoying the benefits of our online shopping experience more than ever,” adds Robin Terrell, managing director of John Lewis Direct. “We are seeing growth online across all product lines — particularly fashion since the relaunch of our fashion site — but also encouragingly in home.”

The Index also breaks out the conversion rates and average basket size for online retailers. The latest analysis from Capgemini and IMRG reveals that pure play online and catalogue retailers have mastered the ability to convert clicks into sales, with a high conversion rate of 4.08% for September — 1.15% higher than the conversion rate for multichannel and high street retailers. However, consumers are still spending less per visit with pure play etailers, with an average basket size of £110.

In contrast, multichannel and high street retailers are able to command a larger spend from shoppers per visit — encouraging consumers to lash out an average of £167 per visit. As these retailers have multiple channels to reach shoppers, they have an increased opportunity to better target and tailor their offering for consumers. The figures reveal a clear call to action as multi-channel retailers have huge opportunity to take lead from pure-play online retailers to more effectively link up their channels to drive up conversion rates.

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