Aug 21, 2018
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Fashion stalls online in July as consumers go gardening instead

Aug 21, 2018

The UK fashion sector suffered online in July as e-tail sales slowed dramatically after the World Cup, slipping to the lowest year-on-year growth so far in 2018.

UK shoppers got into their gardens last month rather than clicking to buy fashion online

That's according to the latest IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, which said that the clothing sector was the hardest hit of all, seeing growth of only 7.5%.

While that might seem a reasonable figure on the surface, given that fashion is one of the standout categories online and that growth usually manages to make it into double digits (it saw a near-20% surge in June), it's really not that impressive. The figure was far below the five-year average of 11.8% and that has led analysts at Capgemini and IMRG to predict a difficult second half for the sector.

It will be of no comfort to fashion retailers to learn that the gardening sector continued to benefit from the hot weather, recording 22.4% sales growth on top of its remarkable 49.9% growth in June.

Overall, online retail sales grew 10% in July, the lowest figure so far this year. Pureplay businesses manage to outperform multichannel retailers with a 13.7% percent increase for the former compared to an 8.4% one for the latter.

It's clear that the online sector is slowing with the three-month rolling average being 14.7%, the six-month average being 15% and the 12-month average hitting 12.7%.

The record growth seen in the first half 2018 had looked like it would continue in July with the month’s first week seeing sales up 14.4%.

But after England’s World Cup semi-final exit on 11 July, this took a dramatic turn, and even Amazon Prime Day couldn't prevent growth shrinking  to +3.7%, +8.6% and +5.1% in the remaining weeks of the month.

But what about that sharper slowdown in the fashion sector? It was particularly bad news for some categories with footwear down over 30% and accessories down over 13% year-on-year. These were the most significant falls since 2013.

Bhavesh Unadkat, principal consultant in retail customer engagement at Capgemini, said: “A few factors contributed to the [slowdown] in online customer spending this month, but significantly last July saw a peak in conversion rate due to activity around Prime day – something that was not repeated this year. Combined with the decrease in overall site views and the highest increase in July basket value in over five years, it suggests that retailers have had to focus less on discounting and clearance; an effect of lower price-points throughout the year due to the competitive nature of the high street combined with good weather driving early summer spending.”

Unadkat thinks the slowdown “could also serve as a reality check for the outlook ahead.” GFK has reported a decline in consumer confidence, and the Major Purchase Index decreased two points to -2. The interest rate hike could also impact the amount of disposable income people have to spend, while consumers are being more cautious after high credit card spend over the summer. 

Meanwhile, Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG said the weather was a factor last month, boosting categories like the garden sector but hurting the home sector and fashion sectors.

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