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Online winners and losers: how did Top500 retailers do online this Christmas?

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While the financial results for a number of key Top500 UK retailers show the High Street took a big hit, the picture is different online.

According to the BRC, overall online sales growth has averaged 6% across the year, with many of those that have seen a poor Christmas sales performance actually doing quite well online.

Clear winner is Shoezone, which logged overall revenue growth of just 1.8% for the year, but digital revenue increased 19.9% to £9.8m (2017: £8.2m) achieving profit contribution of £2.6m (2017: £2.0m). More interestingly, 79% of its online sales came from mobile.

According to the company, the ’mobile first’ design and implementation continues to deliver strong results with an increase in conversion to 3.68% (2017: 3.55%), however desktop conversion has fallen marginally. 

M&S, which saw like-for-like clothing and home sales drop 2.4% over the 13 weeks to 29 December, saw a strong online performance for Home and Clothes, logging UK revenue up 14%, supported by an increased focus on digital marketing together with improvements to delivery and operations at Castle Donnington. Womenswear online growth also significantly outperformed expectations, says the retailer, driven by areas including dresses and knitwear reflecting our “Must-Haves” and social media campaigns.

Debenhams – which was tipped to log almost catastrophic results for Christmas – performed better than expected and online saw significant growth. Group digital sales rose 6.0% in the six week period over peak against a strong comparative performance, delivering two year growth of over 20%. This was supported by improved mobile conversion and customer experience.

Sainsbury’s. which logged a woeful overall sales – especially disappointed in the performance of Argos overall – logged online sales growth of 6% in Q3. 

Arch-rival Tesco, which bucked the High Street trend and logged a modest increase in Christmas sales, also saw online blossom in 2018. Online like-for-like sales increased by 2.6% over the Christmas period. This included Tesco’s biggest-ever sales week in online grocery, with nearly 51 million items delivered and 776,000 orders. The retailer has also seen a 3.8% year-on-year increase in Delivery Saver subscribers to 491,000, compared to Christmas last year.

John Lewis, which also did well on the High Street this Christmas, saw its best ever peak online in 2018, with digital sales up by a whopping 12.8%. Overall, however, heavy discounting across all channels mean that profits are all but flat at JLP this year.

The results come against a backdrop of lower overall consumer spending, over-capacity in retail space on the High Street and fear that the UK economy is going to take a big hit post-Brexit.

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