Despite forecasts of poor turnouts and a number of retailer boycotts, November’s annual discount days set online sales soaring last month, with a growth rate of 16.4% year-on-year.

According to the latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers, this was not only the highest growth of the year to date, but it was also over double the growth achieved last November (+8%), and a staggering 54% higher month-on-month than October’s results. Comparatively, October-November growth rates typically reach around +40%.

Further category analysis paints a similarly positive picture, with most categories recording double-digital growth. Clothing saw its highest sales increase (+19.3%) since November 2016, while health & beauty and beer, wine and spirits reported particularly strong growth of +43.9% and +37.3% respectively. After a year of dismal results, electricals also seems to be fighting back – reducing its previous double-digit sales plummet to just -2.58%, which is the best result of 2019 to date.


From a channel perspective, it was online-only retailers that seemed to benefit most from Black Friday and Cyber Monday, with growth of 24.7% versus +9.2% for multichannel retailers. Both channels also saw increased conversion rates (+6.9% overall vs. +6.2% in 2019), though the average basket value dipped by 11%.

Meanwhile mobile commerce had a less stellar month – although smartphone growth was good (+24.4%), the largest ever negative growth for tablets (-34.8%) brought the overall growth figure to -8.5% (in itself the lowest growth rate ever recorded by the Index).

Senior consultant at Capgemini, Lucy Gibbs, comments: “The jump in November sales this year was well beyond expectations after an otherwise difficult year, could this be what retailers, or rather, consumers were waiting for? The highest growth this year has been seen in the discounting periods; a sign that when wider consumer confidence is low then the predictable sale events in the retail calendar are counted on for stretching wallet spend.”

IMRG strategy and insight director, Andy Mulcahy, adds: “After a year of very weak demand online, the November result is little short of exceptional. The uplift in revenue during Black Friday week was very strong at +11.7%, but actually growth was sustained across the whole month. There was a trend for retailers starting their campaigns earlier in the month this year and shoppers seemed to respond readily. However – while this is undoubtedly positive news, it would seem odd if retailers suddenly experienced consistently strong Christmas trading after such a poor year. Since November captured a high share of sales volumes, will shoppers have anything left to buy in December? Early anecdotal evidence suggests December trading was very subdued in the first week – how is it going to balance out overall?”

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