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Ecommerce sales fall for the first time, month-on-month, in July

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Ecommerce sales fell in July for the first time in 13 years, according to new figures.

The IMRG-KPMG eRetail Sales Index suggests that online retail transactions fell by 2% in July compared to June. July sales were up just 9% on the same month last year, in itself the weakest growth since January 2010, as measured by the IMRG index, and apparently confirming suspicions that shoppers cold-shouldered digital shopping to head for the shops during the month’s heatwave.


Also down was the average value of the eretail basket, which was worth £72 in July, some 15% less than at the same time last year.

High street retailers saw their online sales grow by just 6% during the month, the lowest growth that the multichannel retailers have yet recorded since the index started to track their performance in 2010. Online-only etailers outperformed by comparison, with sales up by 13%, year on year.

However, the month’s figures took average growth for the first half above predicted levels, at 16%. That compares to an IMRG forecast of 12% for the year. Mobile sales were up by 129%, and conversion rates were 2.5%.

“There is no doubt that the prolonged heatwave had a detrimental effect for online retailers,” said Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG . “Following the coldest spring in over 50 years it is hardly surprising that Britons headed outside when the much-needed sunshine appeared. It is interesting to note however that it is only desktop sales that appear to have been impacted; the mobile sales growth of 129% is lower than in recent months but not significantly so, suggesting that consumers still shopped via their devices while bathing in the sun.”

Alex Smith-Bingham, VP of digital and multichannel services in consumer products and retail at Capgemini Consulting , said the warm weather had encouraged consumers to head for the high street, but that ecommerce continued to perform strongly, nonetheless. “I have no doubt online sales will return to high growth as we count down to Christmas,” he said.

Categories that did see growth included home and garden, up by 37%, year-on-year, while wines and spirits were up by 23%. But electricals saw growth of just 2%, health and beauty up by 3% and travel up by 3%.

However, there was evidence of wide variation within the month, with total ecommerce sales up by 25% in the week of July 15 compared to the previous week. Clothing rose by 56% that week on the first week of the month, as seasonal promotions launched.

Oliver Ripley, mobile product manager at eCommera, said the unusually hot summer was both good and bad for UK retailers. “It truly showed us that the weather conditions fundamentally alter the shopping behaviour or UK consumers.

“News from retailers over July seem to indicate that store-based transactions were pretty good – up 2.1% on the year before – but that ecommerce suffered a little bit.

“One can surmise from this that sunny skies mean UK shoppers shift their shopping habits towards bricks and mortar shops and away from the retailer web sites. This is understandable. What is not so understandable is that m-commerce had a very successful July. UK m-commerce was 129% up on the previous year and the average conversion rate was the highest it has been for 5 months at 2.5%.

“This is slightly perplexing and perhaps down to the fact that many consumers chose to do their shopping while reclining in the garden on a deckchair or a hammock. What is clear is that hot weather favours m-commerce and maybe future digital commerce trend predictions should be linked to future weather patterns.”
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