21-year low for November online sales growth as consumers return to the high street

Online retail sales growth fell by almost 20% in November as consumers returned to the high streets – the highest drop since records began.

The IMRG Capgemini Index, which tracks the performance of more than 200 retailers, showed November online sales growth had plummeted by 19.8% compared with the same month last year – the lowest recorded growth in the 21 years of the index.

This figure was below the three-month average of -14.97% and the six-month average of -12.64%.

Every category of retail, except for fashion, showed double-digit negative growth for November. IMRG Capgemini suggested that this was a result of consumers returning to the high street, but also supply shortages and delivery disruptions.

Month on month, however, the index showed that sales grew by 40.4%, although that was significantly below the 50% growth figure normally seen at this time of year.

IMRG Capgemini also pointed to evidence that consumers are spending less when they do buy online, with the average basket value falling to £123 from its 2021 peak of £149. Conversion rates were also down by 20% year on year.

With high-street sales up, multichannel retailers fared worse (-23.4%) than their online-only rivals (-13.4%).

Commenting on the figures, IMRG strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy said: “In retail we are often prone to focusing on the negatives, but there is no escaping that November’s performance was very poor. The most concerning thing is that traffic was the problem, shoppers were just not visiting retailers’ sites in their usual volumes. To an extent, that could be explained by people taking to big high street locations again, but the next few weeks will be very interesting in that respect. There does seem to be an attitude of ‘getting it in before we get locked down’ at the moment, but from next week people will not want to go anywhere to avoid having to isolate over Christmas. We will, from a retail perspective, be in a lockdown in all but name, which will really skew trading figures.”

At Capgemini, Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant and retail lead for analytics and AI, added: “The drop in online sales this year is not unexpected however the month-on-month figures suggest that spending overall has been even more subdued. multichannel retailers were hit the hardest, down 23.4%, but online only retailers also suffered, down 13.4% due to the drop in overall traffic online.

“While a return to in-person shopping has taken a large share of the spend, other factors such as supplier shortages and delivery disruption have also caused retailers to spread and dilute some of the offers, which could be behind the decrease in conversion by 20% across November.”

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