Covid-19: Online sales growth surges to 10-year high during April

Online retail sales grew by 23.8% year-on-year in April, a 10-year high, according to figures released today by the IMRG. This represents a month-on-month rebound of 28.2% compared to results recorded in March, when the Covid-19 pandemic struck in many places.

The figures demonstrated a “seismic shift in purchasing patterns“ with consumers adapting to life under Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.

The data was taken from the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of more than 200 retailers on a monthly basis.

IMRG noted that this surge in eCommerce was driven “overwhelmingly” by multichannel retailers, which saw online sales increase by 35% in April. For online only traders, there was a more modest growth of 8.3%. 

There was an unprecedented growth in online gardening sales, at 288%, helped by the unusually high temperatures in April. There was also 102% year-on-year growth for electrical sales last month, likely due to people working from home and the need for more in-home entertainment during lockdown. Another area that saw substantial growth in this period was in health and beauty, at 82%.

However, in clothing, sales fell for the second month running in April; this time by 23.8% following a 23.1% decline in March. Footwear and menswear were hit particularly hard, down by 31.1% and 33.5%, respectively.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, commented: “April’s data shows that demand is following a very logical pattern – with stores closed, people who would usually shop in physical locations have no choice but to switch online. Hence it is the multichannel retailers who are securing the very strong growth at the moment, though whether it will be enough to entirely offset the loss of sales from those stores seems unlikely. This is only true for some categories though; even with stores closed, online growth for multichannel clothing retailers is still down -17.5%. The demand just isn’t there at the moment.”

A number of multichannel clothing retailers, such as Next, Schuh, and Quiz, re-opened their eCommerce channels last month after initially closing their warehouses when lockdown measures were introduced. Clothing retailers will hope they can begin to reopen their physical stores from June, following plans outlined by the Prime Minister on Sunday about lifting the lockdown.