Unilever says ecommerce sales now represent 14% of its turnover after seeing double digit growth in the first quarter of its financial year.
That represents a further shift online since its 2021 full year, when online sales grew by 44% to account for 13% of turnover. In 2021, ecommerce was a particularly strong contributor to sales of Unilever’s prestige beauty brands, within its beauty and personal care division.
The update came as the brand owning business reported an 11.8% increase in turnover to €13.8bn (£11.6bn) in the first quarter of its financial year, while underlying sales grew by 7.3%. That represents an 8.3% rise in prices, triggered by a rise in but a 1% decline in the volume of products being sold. Underlying sales rose across its beauty and personal care (+7.1%), home care (+9.2%) and food and refreshments (+6.5%) businesses. The volume of products sold fell in all divisions while prices rose – most notably in home care, where volumes fell by 2.9% as prices rose by 12.5%. Unilever’s Chinese business, where its Omo laundry liquid is a bestseller, saw “continued momentum from ecommerce”.
Sales in Europe, meanwhile, grew by 0.7%, of which 5.4% was from price rises offset by a 4.4% decline in volumes. “Most markets in Europe were in volume decline as consumer demand was impacted by price increases across all categories,” Unilever says in today’s trading statement. “Ice cream lapped strong in-home sales in the prior year when Covid-19 restrictions across countries boosted in-home consumption. In contrast, the out-of-home ice cream business benefitted from fewer restrictions in the quarter and a stronger sell-in ahead of the ice cream season. Home care declined mid single-digit, while beauty and personal care sales were flat, with price gains offset by negative volumes.”
Unilever chief executive Alan Jope says in today’s statement that the business is executing well in “a very challenging input cost environment,” with price rises also affected by the war in Ukraine.
Jope says: “The delivery of another solid quarter of sales growth builds on the improved growth momentum that we achieved in 2021 and is underpinned by Unilever’s increased focus on operational excellence as well as disciplined adherence to our chosen strategic priorities. We are maintaining strong investment in our top brands, growing our thirteen billion+ Euro brands by 8.8% in the quarter. Ecommerce sales now represent 14% of turnover following another quarter of strong double-digit growth.”
He concludes: “There is more to do as we navigate our business through unprecedented cost inflation, but we are making good progress.”
Unilever is now longer investing in Russia following its invasion of Ukraine, but will continue to provide Russian people with basic products. Its Russian business represents 1% of group turnover, while its Ukranian operations “have been significantly constrained”.