April 2021 was the first full month of online trading capable of being compared as a true ‘pandemic one year later’. 12 months ago the online retail market boomed as lockdown restrictions forced shoppers towards ecommerce- its only now that we can judge two months against each other with both being during the pandemic…
Online retail posted a 10.2% year-on-year uplift in April which is reasonably impressive given last years whopping 44% uplift. Several factors within Aprils data need to be considered – the high street was open for the majority of April 2021 (it was closed in April 2020) which is initially encouraging news for online retail. Although its worth noting that the month-on-month change between March and April 2021 was minus 12%, typically we would expect a near flat movement between the two months. The high street reopening certainly had an effect to dampen spend online, but it still managed to achieve double digit annual growth. A good indicator of the highstreets influence can be found in the performance difference between the websites of pureplay and high street retailers; pureplays collectively posted a 2.6% Month-on-Month decline, whereas multichannel retailers posted a 15.8% drop – a clear sign shoppers chose to visit the physical locations of retailers where possible.
The second element to consider for April 2021 is the success between different product categories. The effects of being compared against an early pandemic boom or bust are being felt very differently across online retail. One year ago the clothing sector was in the midst of the worst performance period in its history – it reported a 10.7% YoY decline in April 2020. Consequently it is now enjoying some spectacular YoY growth rates, reporting a 63.3% uplift in April. As lockdown measures start to ease, the clothing sector is beginning to thrive as social occasions are back on the agenda. At the other end of the spectrum are the product categories whom 12 months ago were benefitting wildly from the pandemic- Home&Garden, Beauty and Electricals. The latter two of which reported negative YoY growth this month. Notably they all declined Month-on-Month- a sign perhaps those categories were hit hardest with the re-opening of the high street (clothing remained flat MoM)
May brings the next challenge for online retail with the re-opening of indoor meetups and hospitality locations- can online retail continue its impressive run or will it succumb to diverted spend…only time will tell (and of course IMRG will tell you too!)
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