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April puts spring in e-retailÂ’s step

By Retail Technology | Thursday May 16 2013

Online retail sales up 16% year-on-year boosts travel sector, while mobile growth slows but still manages to sustain triple digit increase from this time last year

The latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index released today reveal 16% growth on the same time last year helped by the improved weather.

The travel sector in particular contributed to this solid performance, equalling overall growth of 16% year-on-year. The e-retail trade body and its Index systems integrator partner said this is the first time this sector has seen growth between March and April (up 2%) since the UK sales benchmark first began tracking online travel sales in 2009.

Sector winners and losers

Beer, wine and spirits also performed well with a 19% increase on online sales compared to April last year, and a monthly growth of 18%. This follows a poor performance in the first quarter of this year by contrast, which saw the sector grow by just 3%.

Electricals took a hit for the first time since July 2011, down 3% year-on-year, with an average basket value of £167. This disappointing performance came off the back of a very strong April 2012, which saw the launch of the iPad 3, the sale of which the Index said created a ‘halo’ effect on the wider sector, encouraging consumers to buy other electrical goods. It pointed out that there had not been any highly anticipated consumer electronics launches during the same period this year.

Pureplay versus multichannel

The figures also revealed a continuing trend delineating online-only retailers from those multichannel retailers that have both an online and physical presence on the High Street. Online-only retail growth was 20% year-on-year in April, while multichannel recorded 14%.

This pureplay growth follows a similar trend in 2012, where the performance of online and multichannel retailers converged during the Christmas period. But the two retail sales models have since diverged, with online outperforming their multichannel counterparts. This, according to the benchmark report, suggested that shoppers are becoming more confident in the internet as a transaction medium and a result of the increased adoption of new technologies and services, using mobile devices, social media and the like, introduced first by online-only retailers.

Mobile growth slows

The M-Commerce Index revealed that growth in sales via mobile devices (including smartphones and tablets) slowed from 243% year-on-year in March to 131% (excluding travel) in April. But this was put down to the fact that m-retail and mobile technology is simply becoming more widespread.

Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG, stated: “Now that the green shoots of economic recovery have arrived with a (now distant) spell of sunshine, the momentum of online shopping in Q2 is even more evident.”

This most recent solid Index performance was ahead of the 12% e-retail growth IMRG forecast for 2013, resulting in average growth of 15% year-to-date. “We expect ‘’ to continue to dominate the retail picture as the recovery gathers greater momentum,” she added.

Weather spurs spending

Chris Webster, vice president and head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini, said: “With the holiday period falling at the start of April and warm weather following in the second half, we have seen uplifts in holidays, home and garden, alcohol and apparel driving the Index.”

Commenting on the slowing m-commerce growth, Webster added: “Although sales via mobile devices are slowing, the sector continues to grow as retailers invest in the technology to personalise the shopping experience. A rise in conversion rates suggests that consumers are using mobile devices to research and purchase goods online while on the move.”

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