• Online retail sales fell by -12.5% Year-on-Year (YoY) last month – a further drop on August’s -9.3%
  • September’s result came in well below the 12-month average of +17.13% but was also beaten by the 3-month (-10.06%) and 6-month (-6.83%) averages
  • Month-on-Month performance (+2.1%) rose for the first time since the high street reopened, but failed to match pre-pandemic patterns
  • Beers, wine and spirits and garden continue to report strong growth, but the broader category picture was far less positive

LONDON UK – 14 October 2021: Despite evidence of an upturn in growth last month, online retail sales took a turn for the worse in September, falling back to -12.5% Year-on-Year (YoY). That is according to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers. This was particularly driven by the first week of the month, the traditional back-to-school week, which saw the steepest drop (-12.94%). There were some positive signs when looking at the Month-on-Month (MoM) comparison (+2.1%), which was up for the first time since the high streets reopened in April – however, pre-pandemic patterns indicated this would typically be closer to +6%.

Breaking the results down further, September’s subdued sales suggest consumers are browsing, and not buying, which could result from a variety of factors including supply chain shortages and consumer caution in the face of rising inflation and gas prices etc, or Christmas browsing starting earlier. This is evident when looking at the conversation rate, which was down from 3.9% in September 2020 to 2.8% for the same month this year.

At category level, beers, wines and spirits (+18.6%), garden (+5.2%) and clothing (+11.1%) all maintained good levels of growth – and were the only ones to do so. Based on year-to-date patterns, this is expected to continue into the new year for these three categories. Meanwhile, as with last month, health & beauty was the worst performing of the group – down -32.7% as part of a sustained downward trajectory.

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Lead for Analytics & AI, Capgemini: “Online sales were more subdued in September, and basket value decreased month on month for the first time this year. This has been reflected across the market alongside a dip in consumer confidence as back to school and a push for a ‘return to normal’ coincides with concerns on energy bills, costs, and tax hikes. Supply chains are also under significant strain, presenting challenges for retailers as we move into the peak trading period. How retailers will navigate the build up to black Friday and Christmas events will be crucial to manage availability of stock throughout the period and maintain customer service levels”

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: Many retailers are reporting that Christmas searches on their sites started very early this year. One possibility for the relatively low performance in online sales in September may be related to that point. If shoppers were browsing for ideas in September, the purchasing may start to fall in October. The conversion on sites in September was down around 25% on the same time last year, but that has been a trend across many months. If the purchasing accelerates early, it might spur some to launch their Black Friday campaigns even earlier than they did in 2020, which could lead to an extended event this year.”



The IMRG Capgemini Sales Index was adjusted in August 2020 to reflect updated historic figures from our retail panel. Previously reported results have been recalibrated to provide a more accurate view of the market index.

About the ‘IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index’ 

The IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which was started in April 2000, tracks ‘online sales’, which we define as ‘transactions completed fully, including payment, via interactive channels’ from any location, including in-store.

*Please note from January 2020 the Index no longer includes data from the travel sector

About IMRG

For over 20 years, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) has been the voice of e-retail in the UK. We are a membership community comprising businesses of all sizes – multichannel and pureplay, SME and multinational, and solution providers to industry. We support our members through a range of activities – including market tracking and insight, benchmarking and best practice sharing. Our indexes provide in-depth intelligence on online sales, mobile sales, delivery trends and over 40 additional KPIs. Our goal is to ensure our members have the information and resources they need to succeed in rapidly-evolving markets – both domestically and internationally. www.imrg.org

About Capgemini

Capgemini is a global leader in partnering with companies to transform and manage their business by harnessing the power of technology. The Group is guided everyday by its purpose of unleashing human energy through technology for an inclusive and sustainable future. It is a responsible and diverse organization of 290,000 team members in nearly 50 countries. With its strong 50 year heritage and deep industry expertise, Capgemini is trusted by its clients to address the entire breadth of their business needs, from strategy and design to operations, fueled by the fast evolving and innovative world of cloud, data, AI, connectivity, software, digital engineering and platforms. The Group reported in 2020 global revenues of €16 billion.

Get the Future You Want | www.capgemini.com

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