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Spending patterns across online retail in all sectors falls 27% to ‘more normal levels’

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Despite February’s year-on-year online retail growth dropping 27% – even lower than the previous month’s record – there are signs of a return to ‘normal’ spending patterns within the broader set of results.

According to the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance for more than 200 retailers, while February’s dip of -27% means it replaces January 2022 (-24.4%) as the lowest ever month of growth, this figure isn’t as negative as it may seem, comparing as it does to a staggering +60% growth in February 2021 – the highest growth the index has recorded in its 22 years. In fact, measuring February 2020 against February 2022 shows that sales are actually +16.1% higher now than they were just before the pandemic began.

On a similar note, month-on-month (MoM) growth was also down only -7.7%, which is in line with the normal range of growth from January to February. Meanwhile, Average Basket Value (ABV) has risen for the first time since it reached a peak last August – climbing from £108 in January 2022 to £124 for February.

At a category level, womenswear and menswear appear to be doing well (+25.7% and +17% respectively), however, clothing as a whole was brought down by accessories and lingerie, which are still experiencing negative growth (-13.3% and -28.3%). Again, when compared to last year’s phenomenal figures, footwear, menswear, and womenswear were the only categories to record positive YoY growth, with home (-37.7%) and garden furniture (-34.1%) showing the biggest declines.

This chimes with FMCG and grocery specific data from NielsenIQ which shows that online share of FMCG sales fell back to 12.5% in February, with sales down 20% on the same period last year. In contrast, visits to stores are up 12% which is helping to support ‘brick and mortar’ growth (+0%), and sales in convenience channels also continue to improve (+3.3%).

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Lead for Analytics & AI, Capgemini, comments: “This month, orders dropped further than revenue at -39% vs last year; an increase in basket value makes up the difference. This is largely driven by home, garden and electrical categories which, despite negative YOY growth, continue to outperform pre pandemic levels. The increase here is likely to be two-fold, the basket value increase could be an early indicator of price increase, particularly in electricals where scarcity of materials and supply chain disruption effects are more acute. However, research suggests that home improvement trends accelerated by lockdowns are continuing to create demand into 2022. Other trends and longer-term impacts are starting to be understood as we emerge from the pandemic, two years on from the initial lockdowns in March 2020. However, agility, resilience and adaptability will remain key to navigate disruptions, increased costs and rising inflation.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, adds: “The unprecedented disruption from the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 has made understanding the wild fluctuations in online growth difficult at times; +60% growth in February last year was followed by a record low this year, but overall online revenues are way up on where they were pre-pandemic. Now, for the first time since it began, the trading patterns between months have looked settled for a few consecutive months, which tells us the online / offline split is probably now set at the much-feted ‘new normal’. But, just as the pandemic seems to be abating in the UK, it looks like global events could potentially bring further economic and supply chain impacts. From the perspective of businesses, ‘normal’ in the 2020s is proving to mean turmoil and sudden shifts that are going to be difficult to navigate.”

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