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Cold weather no barrier for online shoppers in March
Apr '13
According to the latest results from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, online shoppers were not put off from making purchase decisions by the freezing weather in March, as online retail sales rose 16% year-on-year.  In fact, the results conclude what has been a very solid first quarter of the year, with online sales up 15% on the same period in 2012, exceeding earlier expectations of 12%.

- Online retail sales up 16% year-on-year in March
- Q1 sales up 15% on Q1 2012
- Sales of clothing up 15% year-on-year despite unseasonable weather
- Mobile Index up 243% year-on-year - strongest growth since November 2012

In terms of sector performance, online clothing sales performed particularly well in March. Despite a disappointing start to spring, with parts of the country experiencing the highest March snowfall in 30 years, the online clothing sector recorded growth of 15%year-on-year – in contrast with the performance reported by several major UK high street brands.

Growth in sales via mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) was restored to levels last seen in 2012 with sales up 243% year-on-year.  This was despite a drop in average conversion rates to 1.8% compared to 2.3% in February.  This suggests that users are adopting mobile phones to access retail sites for more purposes (eg research, at home or on the move) as opposed to purely for direct purchases.

Andrew McClelland, Chief Operations & Policy Officer at IMRG: “Unseasonal weather patterns can impact some online retail sectors just as much as on the high street, so with the freezing weather in March it was a real surprise to see the clothing sector up by 15% year-on-year. In 2012 for example, we saw the wettest April on record and the online clothing sector was badly impacted, recording its lowest ever growth of 1%.

"What this demonstrates is that e-commerce is fairly unique in the retail industry, as it doesn’t always reflect analysts’ expectations; online shopping is so engrained in the culture now, the market seems to keep up its double-digit growth irrespective of potentially disruptive external factors.”

Chris Webster, VP, Head of Retail Consulting and Technology at Capgemini: “Despite the various challenges currently facing the wider retail sector, such as the weather and its subsequent impact on high-street footfall, online is continuing to show its resilience.

“While the sector may at times slow or report a marginal annual increase, overall growth for both online and mobile has been relentless. As retailers continue to develop multichannel offerings and improve mobile services in line with an ever evolving technology, the high-street will struggle to match the performance of their online counterparts.”

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