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UK online shoppers held back from buying in October: IMRG

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The UK’s online shoppers held back from buying in October, according to IMRG figures.

For while online retail sales grew by 12.6% during the month, compared to the same time last year, according to the IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, that’s behind the five year October average of 14% growth, and the average year-on-year growth of 14.3% over the three months from August to October.

IMRG suggests that October should have been a strong month for ecommerce sales, given the poor performance on the high street. The fact that spending remained more subdued suggested, it said, a pre-Black Friday lull. At the same time, average conversion rates stood at 4.4% in October. That’s higher than October 2016 (4%) but lower than the three year average between 2013 and 2015 of 4.8%. When fewer people convert, says IMRG, it suggests a more research-led focus in the lead up to Black Friday.

Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG , said: “October was a very average month in the context of 2017, with growth of 12.6% exactly in line with the Jan to Oct year-to-date rate. As the fall in conversion rate suggests, shoppers have been well trained to expect the best deals to be available during the Black Friday period, so we can anticipate that November will convert a degree of that early research into sales – last year, the conversion rate was 5.1% in November, while it was just 4% in October.”

Despite this, October’s average basket value came in at £94 – the highest for October in nine years, suggesting shoppers were spending more per visit. That itself may reflect ongoing discounting encouraging shoppers to buy several items.

Electricals also saw their first year-on-year growth (+4%) in October. This follows an average fall of 5.9% for the sector. Average basket volumes climbed to £152 at the same time.

“It was surprising to see electricals break its six-month pattern of negative growth in October – with Black Friday looming very large in the public consciousness, we may have expected that trend of decline to continue as shoppers held off on any major purchases, anticipating a much lower price at the end of November,” said Opie. “The release of a must-have item like the new iPhone model could have influenced behaviour, but it’s likely that the wide availability of discounting last month was also determining.”

However menswear (0%) and womenswear (+0.2%) both saw their lower year-on-year growth for October since IMRG records began.

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement, Capgemini , said: “October was a bleak month for retail. You would have expected ecommerce to benefit from a more price sensitive customer, yet the interest rate hike, the bad weather and anticipation of Black Friday did little to help the cause – covering up October’s truly underwhelming performance if anything. These coming three months, October through to December, will be important to view performance as a whole and be indicative of whether people are waiting longer before they spend on Christmas. Black Friday and the Autumn Budget are both important factors in this, so hopefully we will see Philip Hammond outlining some form of catalyst to boost consumer confidence this November.”

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