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Overall online sales drop in September but clothing sales grow

Tom Bottomley
15 October 2021

Online clothing sales grew +11.1% last month despite overall online sales plummeting by -12.5% year-on-year, a further drop on August’s -9.3%.

The data from IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales of over 200 retailers, suggested that generally consumers were “browsing not buying” in September, though other categories which performed well included alcohol – up +18.6%, and garden up +5.2%.

Based on year-to-date patterns, along with clothing, positive growth is “expected to continue” into to the new year for those three categories.

As with last month, health and beauty was the worst performing of the group – down -32.7% as part of a sustained downward trajectory.

September’s subdued overall online sales could be a result of a variety of factors, including supply chain shortages and consumer caution in the face of rising inflation and gas prices, also customers’ Christmas browsing starting earlier, but not spending just yet.

Lucy Gibbs, Managing Consultant and Retail Lead for Analytics and AI at Capgemini, said: “Online sales were more subdued in September, and basket value decreased month on month for the first time this year. This has been reflected across the market alongside a dip in consumer confidence as back to school and a push for a ‘return to normal’ coincides with concerns on energy bills, costs, and tax hikes.

“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 at 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 to fall 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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