Sep 11, 2020
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UK e-sales surge again, fashion rises but shoes are off the shopping list

Sep 11, 2020

Online sales are continuing to power ahead in the UK, despite physical stores now being open again. And while the growth is showing some signs of a slowdown, it doesn’t seem to be enough to derail what has been a stellar year for e-tail. 


E-sales were up a hefty 43.5% year-on-year last month, but compared to July, they declined 4.1% as consumers began to drift back to in-store shopping.

Yet it’s clear that online is here to stay as a bigger part of most consumers’ lives and the August annual growth was well above the 12- and six-month rolling averages of +22.6% and +38.12% respectively, even though it was slightly below the three-month average of +49.95%.

So looking at it in more detail, what actually happened last month?

Well, multichannel retailers continued to outperform online-only for the fifth month running, recording a rise of 70.5% vs 11.4% for pureplays. It’s yet another sign that shoppers who’ve switched to online still seem to be buying from their favourite physical retailers’ webstores rather than making a big switch and abandoning the names they’ve patronised for years.

As far as fashion specifically is concerned, clothing sales were up by as much as 6.8% year-on-year, compared to last month’s more modest rise of 0.6%. That would have been great news for the fashion sector generally had it not been for the fact that footwear continued to struggle. It’s the only retail category that has failed to record positive growth since lockdown, and this time it saw a year-on-year decline of a sizeable 10.7%. With consumers having spent months at home and still being less active than usual, it seems that their shoes just aren’t wearing out.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant - Retail Insight at Capgemini, said: “We expect to see some shifts in the category spending as we move into autumn. In particular, clothing seems to be returning to positive growth, boosted by the return to school and offices as well as further mobility, however this may not be enough to capture the total lost sales during the summer pandemic period. Footwear, for example, is the only category to remain in negative growth since March, impacted by events and reduced wear throughout lockdown.

“The disrupted seasonal trends, and higher proportion of spend online, have had a disproportionate impact on retailers without diverse product ranges or a strong online offering, and [created] challenges in planning and supply chain. Retailers will need to remain reactive and innovative to prepare for the upcoming months. The discounting period around Black Friday could prove to be significant to regain sales. As many consumers have now shifted online, we can also expect a significant growth in e-commerce during the festive period.”

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