December closed off 2020 with +37% year on year growth, the best Christmas month since 2007. Notably there was a 20% Month-on-Month decline from November, highlighting how Black Friday has taken the throne as the most important landmark in the Retail Calendar.

As 2020 ends, Online retail concludes perhaps its most dramatic year on record. The final growth figure for 2020 was +36.6% YOY, which is the highest rate since 2007. The pandemic shaped the year and carved a separation of fortunes and failures between product sectors. It’s interesting to note that the first two months of 2020 (before the pandemic struck in the UK), reported growth in the mid to high single digit levels; were 2020 to have panned out as a ‘normal’ year, the final growth tally being discussed would likely have ranged between 5-8%.

Clothing reported year-on-year growth of +3.2% for December and a total of just 1.3% for the whole year- its worst ever result since IMRG and Capgemini began reporting the online market in 2000. Interestingly retailers that operate within the ‘value/budget’ end of the clothing market reported on aggregate a very poor December at -20% YoY, whereas those retailers at the ‘Premium’ end of the market, scored a very successful Christmas trading period at +32% YoY. Indeed, since the initial lockdown in March, Premium clothing retailers have fared far better than their ‘mid-market’ or ‘budget’ counterparts. The end of year total growth for Premium, Mid-market and Budget clothing retailers is +19%, +3%, and -11% respectively.

IMRG have purposely not issued a forecast for 2021 due to the unpredictable nature of the upcoming 12 months. There are too many unknown variables surrounding store closures, the vaccine rollout and diverted spend on holidays and leisure activity to reliably predict how the market will react this year. We believe any forecast provided would simply be unusable given the uncertainty of the wider economic climate.

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