November sees first positive UK e-tail sales this year, but December could suffer
Online retailers finally saw the first positive online growth figure for more than 18 months over the Black Friday month in the UK, according to IMRG and Capgemini’s sales index.
Following months of consistent negative growth and against a backdrop of continued challenges, the fact that e-tailers defied the odds last month was impressive.
However, it has to be said that they achieved only a slim 0.7% increase year on year, which also suggests some customer hesitancy.
There could also be a sting in the tail with online sales for the first week of December down 8.1%, suggesting the November uplift ‘robbed’ December of potential sales.
But focusing on the good news, as November was the first moment of positive-territory growth in IMRG and Capgemini’s Index since April 2021, it was welcome.
Traffic to online retail sites peaked at a 2.7% rise for the week starting 13 November, predominantly due to early Black Friday activations, which were particularly strong across home, beauty, and electrical products. Interestingly though, there was a decline in traffic the following week of 6.1%, “signalling customers’ response to early campaigning”.
As IMRG/Capgemini had predicted, the number of retailers launching Black Friday campaigns was higher this year. But the revenue uplift that resulted was very small.
Over Black Friday week itself (21-28 November), the total market saw a slightly better performance than anticipated, at +0.3% year on year. Health and beauty, and electricals, saw the highest growth levels at 3.8% and 2.8%, respectively, while clothing suffered the biggest decline at -1.1%.
Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG, said: “November came in above expectation, which meant the month as a whole saw overall demand increase. This was surprising when it has been so low for the whole year. It does feel like volume[s] may have been pulled forward, with people doing their Christmas shopping earlier this year to take advantage of discounting to a greater extent than normal.”
Simon Binge, Commerce Senior Manager at Capgemini, added: “Whilst any sign of [year on year] growth can be seen as good news, the context is likely to be a cause for concern for retailers. If consumers have indeed brought forward their Christmas spend to capitalise on discounts, then retail could be in for a rough December, especially given the Royal Mail strike activity and its impact on consumer behaviour. If the net effect on sales for November and December ends up being negative, we’re likely to see significant activity in January as retailers fight to clear seasonal stocks and take share of an ever-shrinking consumer wallet.”
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