Online sales dip slightly in August but remain high

Online sales grew 43.5% year-on-year in August, although fell 4.1% compared with July, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index. It was also below the rolling three-month average growth of 49.95%, but significantly higher than the six-month and 12-month rolling averages for this channel, which were 38.12% and 22.6%, respectively.

The figures highlighted how the shift to eCommerce during Covid-19 has sustained even after the reopening of non-essential shops from mid-June, dipping only slightly in comparison to the earlier lockdown period.

The index also showed that multichannel retailers outperformed those that are online-only, recording a year-on-year growth of 70.5% compared to 11.4%.

Clothing sales were up 6.8% year-on-year in August, which followed a more modest rise of 0.6% in July. And gardening sales surged by 286.1% last month, boosted by sporadic spells of hot weather.

However, footwear saw sales fall by 10.7%, with the index noting this is the only category that has failed to record positive growth since lockdown.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG said: “Now that we are coming out of summer, all attention is inevitably focused on the Black Friday and Christmas period. The big question is just how big Black Friday will be online this year. With most types of business open again, and people being actively encouraged by the government to return to their offices, are we starting to see some signs of online and offline sales balancing out again?

“The evidence has a big caveat as, while it’s true that the August rate of growth was a bit lower than it had been over the past three months, it doesn’t necessarily mean online growth is slowing down. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme ran through August and had a big take-up, bringing people back to the high street. Now that is finished, will they stay there, or has behaviour evolved more fundamentally than that?”

Earlier this week, the BDO’s High Street Tracker found a similar trend in regard to online sales in August, with a 72.4% growth falling slightly compared to the previous four months.