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UK Ecommerce Growth in January Slowed

But average spend highest in seven years

February 23, 2017 | Retail & Ecommerce

UK ecommerce sales in January rose 12% year over year, according to the Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG) and Capgemini, helped by the highest average order value seen in that month since 2010. Yet comparisons to past performance show sales gains are moderating, with certain product categories in particular losing steam.

January’s growth was down from a 2016 in which B2C ecommerce sales in the UK expanded nearly 16%—the best year for growth since 2013, according to the “IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.”

UK B2C Ecommerce Sales, 2015 & 2016 (billions of £ and % change)

The average order value—excluding travel sales—rose to £85 ($115) in January 2017, up from £79 ($107) a year earlier, and the highest value for the month of January since 2010. By comparison, the overall average in 2016 was £81 ($109).

Multiple retail sectors—including clothing, gifts and accessories—recorded an increase in average order value. The gift sector fared best, seeing a 62% year-over-year increase—its biggest monthly gain since December 2009. However, digital sales growth for clothing retailers slowed to 11% in January, the lowest monthly increase for that sector since March 2016, according to IMRG and Capgemini.

Other product areas suffered more explicitly. The consumer electronics sector’s average order value, for one, dropped 12% compared with January 2016. The sector saw online sales dip nearly 9% vs. a year earlier, recording a second consecutive month of year-over-year declines.

“January’s figures reveal a steady start to the year, but 2017 is not without its challenges for online retailers,” said Justin Opie, IMRG’s managing director. “The most pressing one relates to the devaluation of the pound following Brexit, as it means price rises are looming for an industry where retailers often get pressured into a cycle of discounting to stimulate sales activity among customers.”

Slowing growth could be a sign that the UK’s June 2016 vote to leave the European Union is, after months of seemingly little effect, beginning to influence UK consumers’ mindset.

For example, the latest Nielsen study of UK consumer confidence, conducted at the end of 2016, found that the economy had overtaken terrorism and immigration to become the leading concern of UK internet users. The proportion of respondents who were most concerned about the economy was up 12 percentage points vs. the end of 2015. Concerns about rising food and fuel prices also increased, the study found.

—Cliff Annicelli

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