Online retail sales continue to fall in February


  • In February 2023, UK online retail saw a -4.1% Year-on-Year decline in revenue
  • There was a -7.8% decline in Month-on-Month growth from January 
  • February welcomed the first Week-on-Week total market revenue growth of 2023 at +1.4% (for w/c 19th Feb)
  • IMRG reveals two new online retail categories in their index

January blues seeped into February, as UK online sales recorded yet another decline in revenue (every month since May 2021 has recorded a decline except November 2022 which was flat).

The total market saw a -4.1% Year-on-Year (YoY) decline, which is all the more disappointing as it was building on a YoY decline of -27.6% from February 2022, which was the biggest monthly decline ever reported in IMRG’s Online Retail Index, which tracks online sales for over 200 retailers.

The Month-on-Month (MoM) decline between January and February (-7.8%) was in line with previous years, but as the fall between December and January (-29.4%) was sharper than normal, the index was building from a lower base in February.

The online clothing category saw steep declines in February, at -8.7% YoY, continuing the prolonged struggle for growth in this category since October 2022. The highest-performing category in February was gardening, which saw YoY growth of +38.7%.

While the latter is relative to a -37.4% YoY decline in February 2022, it is still growth to celebrate as other categories were against similar declines and still saw further falls this year. In February, retailers reaped the benefits of marketing traditional Valentine’s Day gifts, where IMRG’s index saw a Week-on-Week (WoW) online revenue spike for gifts (+21.9%) and fragrance (+23.1%), in w/c 5th February 2023. The final week of the month (w/c 19th February) saw the first WoW total market revenue growth of 2023 at +1.4%.

New for February is the online retail category sports and outdoors, and the subcategory of home & garden, home improvement, in IMRG’s index. Sports and outdoors experienced +6.3% MoM growth from -25.7% MoM in January, and home improvement has performed positively, at +2.4% MoM growth from +19.6% MoM in January.

Says Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG: 

“Following the pandemic boom in online sales growth, volumes have fallen away for a period of almost two years now. At some point in 2023, even though growth was not possible in February against the biggest decline ever from February 2022, we still think growth will return even if it is very modest.

“The basket value shot up last year, and conversion collapsed accordingly, but those rates seem to have stabilised now so it’s just a question of when the apparently-temporary pandemic volume has fallen away sufficiently to enable retailers to really take stock of how to build up again.”

Chris Price
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