Oct 14, 2021
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UK e-shoppers browsing but not buying, yet fashion is buoyant - report

Oct 14, 2021

UK shoppers are browsing online but not buying as much as they have been, the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index showed on Thursday. But at least they still seem to be focused on fashion with the category among the strongest performers last month.

Photo: Pixabay/Public domain

Covering sales at 200 retailers in September, the Index showed total online retail sales down 12.5% year-on-year, a further drop on August’s 9.3% fall. 

That said, the month-on-month performance was up 2.1% and rose for the first time since the high street reopened, but failed to match pre-pandemic patterns. Such patterns suggest it should have been closer to +6%.

The report said the browsing-not-buying activity could be linked to supply chain shortages and consumer caution in the face of rising inflation generally, and especially higher gas prices.

But it could also be due to Christmas browsing starting earlier with shoppers looking to see what’s available but not yet ready to spend their Christmas budgets. This is evident when looking at the conversation rate, which was down from 3.9% in September 2020 to 2.8% for the same month this year.

As mentioned, at least clothing was strong last month with an 11.1% rise and that strength is expected to continue for the category for the rest of the year. But health & beauty was the worst performing category tracked, down 32.7% as part of a sustained downward trajectory.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant - Retail Lead for Analytics & AI, Capgemini, said: “Online sales were more subdued in September, and basket value decreased month-on-month for the first time this year. Supply chains are also under significant strain, presenting challenges for retailers as we move into the peak trading period. How retailers will navigate the build up to black Friday and Christmas events will be crucial to manage availability of stock throughout the period and maintain customer service levels.”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, added: “Many retailers are reporting that Christmas searches on their sites started very early this year. One possibility for the relatively low performance in online sales in September may be related to that point. If shoppers were browsing for ideas in September, the purchasing may start in October. The conversion on sites in September was down around 25% on the same time last year, but that has been a trend across many months. If the purchasing accelerates early, it might spur some to launch their Black Friday campaigns even earlier than they did in 2020, which could lead to an extended event this year.”

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