Quarterly growth matches annual forecast and sustains strongest first quarter performance since 2011, while monthly sales also build on last month
The latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index have revealed March online retail sales grew 8% on the previous month, with Britons spending approximately £7.8 billion (bn) online during the month, up 16% from £6.7bn in March 2013.
This also topped the strongest growth for the first quarter (Q1) in three years, representing an estimated £23.1bn spent online.
During the first three months of 2014, the Index recorded a growth of 17% over the same period last year, which matches growth forecast for the year by IMRG and Capgemini.
Rather than the upswing in sales being credited to simply more people shopping online, it has been determined that internet shoppers are spending more per purchase.
Basket size and mobile growth
The average Index basket value (excluding travel) hit £86 in March, making it the highest rate recorded since September last year, comparing with £77 in February 2014 and March 2013.
Sales via mobile devices continue to grow unabated, with m-commerce recording a year-on-year increase of 53% (65% excluding travel) in March. Conversion rates are also on the rise with the average rate recorded last month reaching a five-year high of 4.2%.
Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG, commented: “This solid growth represents the strongest Q1 performance since 2011 with sales up 17% year-on-year.
“With online transaction values reaching the highest level recorded in six months, and the average conversion rate for March at pre-recession levels, these results not only demonstrate an overall increase in consumer confidence, but also that online shopping is becoming a larger part of our everyday lives.”
Sectors share buoyant sales
Spooner added: “Following the exceptionally wet weather in February, it appears gardening enthusiasts were making the most of the March sunshine, with sales of garden products surging over 100% between February and March.
In terms of sector performance, the sale of items for the garden was particularly strong, boosting growth by 109% on February 2014. Accessories (up 34%), footwear (up 22%), health and beauty (up 23%) and home and garden (up 21%) all recorded year-on-year increases.
Clothing and alcohol sales also saw a strong month-on-month performance in March, recording a growth of 21% and 31% respectively.
Chris Webster, vice president and head of retail consulting and technology at Capgemini, said: “This month’s Index is a good indicator of the current strength of the UK economy. It is interesting to see that spending over the last three months was not limited to just one sector or the result of one particular influence. Rather, Britons are in good spirits, have regained confidence in the economy and using online as a means to spend across the board.”
“The sustained high conversion rate in March also demonstrates the huge strides retailers have made in their online platforms and are continuing to focus on improving the customer experience.”