DATA: Online retail sales growth slows unexpectedly in October

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UK online sales grew at a slower than expected rate in October, indicating a pre-Black Friday lull, new data has revealed.

Sales were up 12.6% year-on-year in October, according to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

Despite various external stimuli potentially working in its favour, this was lower than both the average year-on-year growth rate of 14.3% for the last three months, and the five-year October average of 14%.

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In particular, the high street’s poor performance in October would typically have suggested a boost for ecommerce sales, yet online retail spend remained more subdued than may have been expected, according to the report.

Further evidence of this lull could be seen in the average conversion rate (the percentage of site visitors that complete a purchase) for October, which stood at 4.4%.

This was higher than that in October 2016 (4%) but -0.4 percentage points lower than the three-year (2013-2015) average of 4.8%.

Fewer people converting on retail websites strongly suggests a more research-led focus in the lead-up to the year’s biggest discounting event.

More positively, October’s Average Basket Value (ABV) was the highest for October in nine years – ringing in at £94.

This high value indicates that shoppers were spending more per visit, which could suggest that they were checking out with multiple items driven by ongoing discounting.

Despite this, Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement at Capgemini, said October was a bleak month for retail.

“You would have expected ecommerce to benefit from a more price sensitive customer, yet the interest rate hike, the bad weather and anticipation of Black Friday did little to help the cause – covering up October’s truly underwhelming performance if anything.

“These coming three months, October through to December, will be important to view performance as a whole and be indicative of whether people are waiting longer before they spend on Christmas. Black Friday and the Autumn Budget are both important factors in this, so hopefully we will see Philip Hammond outlining some form of catalyst to boost consumer confidence this November.”

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