Beast from the East heats up UK’s online retail culture

A spike in the amount of e-commerce in February has been attributed to the snowy onset of Storm Emma.

UK online retail sales saw an increase of 13.1% year-on-year for February, according to the latest figures from the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index.

With the Beast from the East hitting the UK in the last week of February, the cold weather saw shoppers turn online in their droves, driving a 3.5% lift in sales compared to the previous week.

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February’s bumper performance continues 2018’s positive start, with overall year-on-year growth averaging 13.5% year-to-date.

Despite the strong sales however, the overall market conversion rate was 4.2%, down from 4.6% last year. The conversion rates for both multichannel and online retailers also came in lower than February 2017.

While conversion rates experiences a minor dip, the average basket value rose by £11 in comparison to last February and smartphone growth remained strong at 38.5% compared to last year.

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement at Capgemini, said: “February’s sales patterns clearly demonstrate the power of extreme weather on shopping habits; as people avoid the high street in favour of cosier shopping from their well-heated living rooms.

“As the snowy weather continued well into March we anticipate a continuation of this trend in next month’s results. We’d also draw attention to the performance of the US retail market, which has just reported its third consecutive month of falling sales.”

Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG, added: “Over the course of many years, the overall conversion rate for online retailers crept up very slowly but this has stalled recently and has now actually been in decline for three consecutive months. This suggests that shoppers are spending more time browsing, potentially across a greater range of sites, before making a final purchase decision and that may well be true, but a clear influencing factor is a shift in the devices people are using for shopping.”

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