Online mobile sales falter as summer comes to a close

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UK online retail sales held steady this August, as shopper spending achieved 12.8% growth year-on-year (YoY) according to the latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, in line with the three and twelve month rolling averages of 12.8% and 12.9%, but below the three-month average of 15.3%.

M-retail (smartphones and tablets) growth hit an all-time low of just 10% YoY. While smartphone growth still came in at 26.7%, it was the lowest growth since September 2014, and a significant drop on last August’s 53.6% growth. Multichannel m-retail growth only just stayed above water with 1% YoY growth, while online-only m-retail growth was up 15% YoY.

Capgemini principal consultant in retail customer engagement Bhavesh Unadkat commented: “We were expecting a much bigger downturn in August than we got given the effect of the hot summer and events boosting sales in the previous months. The index was down on last month by less than 2%, the lowest decline compared to last four years, and therefore one of best performance we’ve had coming out of July.

“The August performance was largely driven by an uplift in the final week during the August bank holiday weekend; where we started to see a change in the weather, potentially driving autumn-wear and new season growth.

“Categories such as Beers, Wines and Spirits and Electricals had a poorer month, demonstrating underlying revenue is coming more from core and necessity products as a trend rather than luxurious items.”

IMRG strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy added: “The main driver of growth in our index over the past few years has been smartphone devices; throughout 2016 sales growth through these devices was typically in the 75-100% range, then in 2017 it gradually slowed down to be in the 40-60% range, then as we’ve entered 2018 it has continued to decline. This is expected, as very high growth cannot usually be sustained for long periods, but in August three points of note happened.

“The first was that smartphone sales growth was at its lowest rate since September 2014; August 2018 was also the first time it has fallen below the 30% mark since then. The second was that, looking at mobile devices overall (smartphone and tablets combined), growth was at its lowest ever rate since we started tracking it in 2012. And finally, the weak performance seems to be attributed to the multichannel retailers, who recorded overall mobile device growth of just 1%, while for the online-only retailers it was up 15%.”

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