Mar 27, 2020
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UK fashion sales plunged online last week but health & beauty was strong

Mar 27, 2020

The first week of home isolation and steadily closing stores in the UK generated mixed results for online retail. E-tail slowed by 2.2% year-on-year, even though week-on-week sales accelerated by 5.7%, perhaps due to stockpiling. But fashion saw a devastating plunge.

Self-isolating Britons weren't buying fashion online last week

The latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers in the UK, showed the coronavirus had a big impact on the week beginning March 15.

And those overall index figures quoted above “concealed a much more tumultuous picture at a category level”. There were some “standout” categories, last week. One of them was online health & beauty, which rose by 31.6% on the year and 7.3% on the week. The growth built on a strong six-month performance by the sector and followed January and February’s online sales rising by 4.6% and 17.6% respectively. The marked increase in last week’s figure was also particularly significant when compared to 2019’s average sales growth of 20.6%.

And while the weekly report didn’t say exactly what was being bought at a granular level, we can probably assume that hygiene products like hand soap were popular, along with medicines, rather than the more ‘frivolous’ beauty products.

Online sales of electricals also spiked by 42.4% on the year and just slightly more on the week. And again, we have to assume that people weren’t buying hairdryers. Many Britons reportedly rushed to buy home office equipment, games consoles and freezers to cope with an extended stay at home. 

But it’s no surprise that clothing e-sales plummeted. Sales in this category fell 26.7% year-on-year and 22% week-on-week. And the index showed that those extreme figures were mirrored across clothing’s sub-categories, with footwear suffering a big year-on-year fall (-38.2%), although on the week, it was down ‘only’ 22.9%.

It will be particularly interesting to see how the figures for the current week pan out. While almost all physical shops have been closed for most of this week, an increasing number of retailers that had expected to carry on selling online have now shut their webstores, so this will most likely affect the figures for the seven days from March 22.

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