UK online sales growth remained solid throughout December, increasing 37% year-on-year (YoY) for the month and driving the annual figure to a 13-year high, new data shows.
Closing a turbulent year, which was underscored by high street closures and massive restrictions on the consumer way of life, 2020 brought online retail to the fore like never before.
According to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers, ecommerce sales for the full year grew 36%, beating expectations of a 7.8% growth.
With sales starting early and Christmas travel plans halted, online shopping continued the momentum it had built throughout the quarter – with sales up 37.6%, across the three months.
This was largely driven by November’s peak performance of +39% YoY and the Black Friday sales period.
Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – Retail Insight at Capgemini said: “Retail in 2020 has been fundamentally shaped by the pandemic, which caused disruption to consumer demand norms and a shift in focus to digital channels; reflected in the strongest online year-on- year growth in 13 years.
“Learnings from 2020 will be crucial as we navigate the uncertainties this year and a sense of a new baseline will take a while to be established. Retailers best set to ride out the storm are those with a strong online presence and the ability to remain nimble, using demand sensing to react to the changing landscape and adapt to surges both instore and online, combined with a readiness to take on opportunities as they come in 2021.”
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG said that providing a forecast for online sales growth for 2021 would be “extremely difficult” given the pandemic.
“We could end up with a year where significant pandemic disruption lasts for the first quarter, the first half, or most of the year; shopper spend might divert strongly to experiences and holidays if things open up again; the economic situation might lead to a squeeze on spend; the list of potential macro variables goes on,” he said.
“As it is so uncertain, some datasets are going to look odd this year and we think putting a forecast out would not be useful. This might be a year where we have to adjust our understanding of what good looks like.”