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Online clothing sales up 60.9% in April despite high street reopening

Tom Bottomley
12 May 2021

Overall online retail sales increased +10.2% year-on-year in April, with clothing sales growing +60.9% despite the easing of lockdown and non-essential bricks and mortar retail reopening.

However, some impact of the high street reopening was evident in figures comparing April with March, 2021, as overall online sales were down -12% month-on-month, according the latest findings from IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.

Breaking down the clothing sales rise in greater detail, online womenswear sales leapt +98.9% year-on-year in April (compared to a dramatic drop in sales of -25.1% last year), no doubt in anticipation of sunshine, socialising and summer holidays being back on the agenda as the government eases restrictions.

On the flip side, April also saw a reduction in health and beauty sales year-on-year of -9%, and garden and electrical sales were down -13.3% and -3.7% respectively, set  against very strong figures from 2020.

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG, said: “What impact did the reopening of the high street have on retail? Several large retailers I have spoken to say the first week was amongst the strongest they have seen across online and retail platforms, and one even recorded their biggest day ever overall.

“While online growth might have dropped away from +70-80% between January and March to +10% in April, this is largely as growth rates are now compared with pandemic-period rates from 2020, which were so strong that it is hard to build upon that performance.

“In January, we mapped out how growth could look if things go relatively well for online, relatively badly, and somewhere in the middle. In April, retail generally seems to have done well, and the rate of online growth is currently somewhere between average and good in that forecast. As people get more options for spending their money in later May and into June, that will provide a sterner test.”

Lucy Gibbs, Managing Consultant at Retail Insight, Capgemini, added: “This month’s +10% increase on 2020 is particularly impressive when considering last April’s +44% year-on-year growth. It has been over a year since the first UK lockdown therefore growth online on top of this is significant. 

“We can see the impact of the reopening of the high street when we look at month-on-month figures. Despite the strong growth, we would typically see April compared to March as flat, but this year April was -12% lower. This trend can also be seen in retail type, as multichannel retailers dropped to +5.7% growth in April versus last year, whereas online only retailers maintained growth in line with the beginning of the year at +20%.

“Clothing continues to rebound, up +50% and +70% across multichannel and online only respectively as pent-up demand combines with increased consumer confidence. Overall, the story this month is a positive one for retail as we start to emerge from our homes. Online remains key, however tough comparators over the next few months will be challenging to match.”

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