With no repeat of last year’s Beast from the East snowstorms and a later Easter pushing back holiday spend, the online retail industry recorded growth of just 5% year-on-year in March against a tough comparator last year.

According to the latest IMRG Capgemini eRetail Sales Index, while still positive growth, this subdued performance fell significantly below the month rolling averages.

Breaking it down further, online-only retailers saw marginally better results – growing 8.9% versus multichannel retailers’ at 5%.


Across the sectors the impact of a late Easter was most apparent in home and garden, which saw its impressive growth trajectory from earlier in the year slow to just +1.6% YoY. Meanwhile despite a strong performance in footwear , the clothing sector continued its five-month run of single digit growth (+3.7%), and both electricals and gifts saw sales plummet by -26% and -22.1% respectively.

In contrast health and beauty had yet another strong month of sales (+15.6% YoY), with beauty outperforming the rest of the sectors with a +19.8% increase – perhaps due to a few celebrity beauty line launches last month.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, comments: “While on the surface of it +5% growth may not seem very positive, there are actually two possible interpretations. On the one hand it looks bad as it’s below the 3-, 6- and 12-month rolling averages of +7.5%, +7.1% and +10.2% respectively; it’s also the lowest of the first quarter of 2019. On the other hand, this growth is against a strong base from March 2018, which featured Easter (home and garden online sales were down -15% in the equivalent week in March this year) and freezing temperatures that kept people away from high streets and boosted online sales in 2018.

“As Easter falls in April this year, the growth rate for that month will determine whether March’s performance can be considered good, bad or indifferent given those factors – not to mention the continuing general macro-economic pressures on retail.”