Two years of declining growth for online retail
April gave us insight into how online retail is performing two years since the high street reopened after the pandemic skews. UK online retail sales reported a -3.5% Year-on-Year (YoY) decline this month compared to a drop of -11.8% in April 2022. That’s according to IMRG’s Online Retail Index which tracks the online sales performance of 200 retailers. The online market has now experienced two full years of declining growth following the pandemic online boom.
Month-on-Month (MoM) growth in March was up +9.8% from February, a bit higher than normal and likely a consequence of Easter moving to the first week of April. As might be expected then, April MoM growth was a bit lower than last year, and grew at +1.6% relative to March. While this might seem surprising as April saw the worst dip in YoY traffic (-10.5%) since early 2022, buyers’ intent is still there, particularly approaching major events including King Charles III’s Coronation and the subsequent bank holiday. Order volumes grew for the first time in nine months in April (+0.3%), par November owing to Black Friday activity. Although this is small growth after a sharp decline in April 2022 (-21.6%), the trend line has steadily shifted toward positive growth since June 2022.
Home & garden retailers typically benefit the most from Easter trading as people often use that period to do jobs around the house. However, YoY growth for this category was down -1.5% in April. In contrast, health & beauty continued to have an excellent time for revenue, achieving +7.7% YoY. Haircare (+16.5% YoY) and skincare (+16.1% YoY) were the driving forces behind this monthly growth, and in the last two weeks of April, makeup was the top performer (Week 3: +42.9% YoY & Week 4: +20.7% YoY).
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: “All in all, April was not great and not terrible. The difficulty in understanding demand at this time of year is related to some big events that move in the calendar, such as Easter. There is also the Coronation this year, which seems to have stimulated a surge in demand in the final week of April where the amount of money spent online rose +11.5% versus the previous week, whereas it was only up +4.4% for the same week last year. As long as we don’t see a big dip in spend for the week following, that could give online a positive boost moving toward the summer period.”