Despite physical stores reopening, online sales in the UK continue to thrive. E-commerce has had an exceptional year, with last month’s e-sales up by an impressive 43.5% compared to the previous year. While there was a slight decline of 4.1% compared to July as consumers returned to in-store shopping, online shopping remains a permanent fixture in consumers’ lives.

In August, the annual growth in online sales surpassed both the 12-month and 6-month rolling averages, with an increase of +22.6% and +38.12% respectively. Although slightly below the three-month average of +49.95%, it still represents a significant increase.

Multichannel retailers have been outperforming online-only retailers for five consecutive months. They experienced a sales surge of 70.5%, while pure-play online retailers only saw a growth of 11.4%. This suggests that consumers who have transitioned to online shopping are still favoring their favorite physical retailers’ webstores over new platforms.

In the fashion sector, clothing sales saw a year-on-year increase of 6.8% compared to a more modest growth of 0.6% the previous month. However, the struggling footwear category continues to decline, with a significant year-on-year decline of 10.7%. It seems that consumers, who have been less active during lockdown, are not wearing out their shoes as quickly.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant at Capgemini, expects to see shifts in category spending as autumn approaches. Clothing sales are returning to positive growth due to the return to school and offices, as well as increased mobility. However, it may not be enough to make up for the sales lost during the summer pandemic period. Footwear remains the only category in negative growth since March, influenced by canceled events and reduced wear during lockdown.

The disrupted seasonal trends and increased online spending have disproportionately affected retailers with limited product ranges or weak online offerings. This has presented challenges in planning and supply chain management. Retailers will need to be reactive and innovative to navigate the coming months. The discounting period around Black Friday could be crucial in recovering lost sales, and significant e-commerce growth is expected during the festive period as more consumers embrace online shopping.

Useful links:
Retail Gazette – Online Sales Up by 43.5% YoY in August as E-commerce Continues to Thrive
eMarketer – UK Ecommerce 2020: How the Pandemic Is Playing Out and What It Means