Online sales in May suffer worst growth on record
Written by Peter Walker
May continued the discouraging 2019 trend of below-average sales growth, with an increase of only 1.9 per cent year-on-year, according to the latest IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index.
When compared to this time last year, which saw the strongest May growth for online retail since 2010, the state of online retail remains challenging.
Sector analysis for last month shows a number of categories struggling significantly – electricals (down 27.5 per cent) and gifts (down 18.5 per cent) continued the downward trend seen since last November and September respectively.
Clothing had a much slower growth rate versus last year’s performance (up 8.2 per cent), while menswear was down 13.3 per cent against very strong results last year (up 23 per cent) and womenswear (down 4.8 per cent) continued the trend of single-digit or negative growth this year.
Accessories, which had seen successful growth in previous months, has now reported its worst performance in 10 years: down 20 per cent year-on-year. Footwear was the only clothing subsector to see positive growth (up 6.7 per cent).
Despite last month’s dramatic drop, mobile commerce was up in May by 8.4 per cent, with smartphones reaching 35 per cent and tablets flat at 0.3 per cent against last year.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, pointed out that May 2018 benefitted from an early summer heatwave, the Royal Wedding and a World Cup looming, so May 2019 was always going to be anchored by it.
“That said, 1.9 per cent growth is far lower than we might have expected; indeed, it’s the lowest since we started tracking nearly 20 years ago, so it seems there is something more going on here.
“The fact is that retailers are caught in a perfect storm at the moment – with all the problems on the High Street, changing customer behaviour, shopper confidence low due to all the CVAs and negative coverage of major brands, a shifting competitive landscape, and, of course, even the weather is refusing to provide any relief,” he added.
Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement at Capgemini, noted that the health and beauty sector is a standout category in a tough month, reporting 22 per cent growth.
“Over the last few years, health and beauty brands have responded to the increased demand for natural ingredients and attention on environmental impact through exciting developments in product innovation, marketing, and consumer experience,” he explained, adding: “Digital has also had a big role, responding to raised social awareness and innovation in technology which has paved the way for initiatives for growth in this space.”