• In April 2023, UK online retail sales reported a -3.5% Year-on-Year decline
  • Month-on-Month, the total market increased +1.6% from March
  • Year-on-Year traffic growth in April was -10.5%, the lowest of the year so far
  • For the first time in nine months, par November, Year-on-Year orders saw positive growth in April (+0.3%)
  • The health & beauty sector had a strong end to the month, growing +12.7% Year-on-Year

April gave us insight into how online retail is performing two years since the high street reopened after the pandemic skews. UK online retail sales reported a -3.5% Year-on-Year (YoY) decline this month compared to a drop of -11.8% in April 2022. That’s according to IMRG’s Online Retail Index which tracks the online sales performance of 200 retailers. The online market has now experienced two full years of declining growth following the pandemic online boom.

Month-on-Month (MoM) growth in March was up +9.8% from February, a bit higher than normal and likely a consequence of Easter moving to the first week of April. As might be expected then, April MoM growth was a bit lower than last year, and grew at +1.6% relative to March. While this might seem surprising as April saw the worst dip in YoY traffic (-10.5%) since early 2022, buyers’ intent is still there, particularly approaching major events including King Charles III’s Coronation and the subsequent bank holiday. Order volumes grew for the first time in nine months in April (+0.3%), par November owing to Black Friday activity. Although this is small growth after a sharp decline in April 2022 (-21.6%), the trend line has steadily shifted toward positive growth since June 2022.

Home & garden retailers typically benefit the most from Easter trading as people often use that period to do jobs around the house. However, YoY growth for this category was down -1.5% in April. In contrast, health & beauty continued to have an excellent time for revenue, achieving +7.7% YoY. Haircare (+16.5% YoY) and skincare (+16.1% YoY) were the driving forces behind this monthly growth, and in the last two weeks of April, makeup was the top performer (Week 3: +42.9% YoY & Week 4: +20.7% YoY).

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director, IMRG: “All in all, April was not great and not terrible. The difficulty in understanding demand at this time of year is related to some big events that move in the calendar, such as Easter. There is also the Coronation this year, which seems to have stimulated a surge in demand in the final week of April where the amount of money spent online rose +11.5% versus the previous week, whereas it was only up +4.4% for the same week last year. As long as we don’t see a big dip in spend for the week following, that could give online a positive boost moving toward the summer period.”

About the ‘IMRG Online Retail Index’

The IMRG 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.

About IMRG

For over 20 years, IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) has been the voice of online 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 indices provide in-depth intelligence on online sales, mobile sales, delivery trends and over 80 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.

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