UK’s March online sales helped by Mother’s Day – but slide continues

News, Retail

  • In March 2023, UK online retail saw a -2.2.% Year-on-Year decline in revenue, against the -26% decline reported in 2022
  • There was a +9.4% Month-on-Month increase in revenue from February
  • In the week leading up to Mother’s Day (w/c 12th Mar), there was a +2.3% Week-on-Week increase in revenue 
  • For the first time in 23 months, health & beauty saw positive Year-on-Year revenue growth for a full month, at +3%

March marked online retail’s twenty-second consecutive month of negative Year-on-Year (YoY) growth, at -2.2%, excluding November 2022 which was flat.

This figure is relative to March 2022 which saw a -26% decline, a decline so large owing to pandemic comparisons. However, according to the IMRG Online Retail Index – which tracks the online sales performance of 200 retailers – positivity can be found given that there was a +9.4% Month-on-Month (MoM) growth in March from February, where Mother’s Day (19th March) is likely a large contributor to this success.

In w/c 12th March, the index showed Week-on-Week (WoW) revenue growth, at +2.3%, signifying the positive correlation between the event and online retail growth.

However, when comparing these peaks in revenue to 2022, the spikes were not as large. Mother’s Day 2022 fell on w/c 27th March, and saw a WoW revenue growth of +9.7% for the week leading into it, while this year the same week saw a WoW decline of -4.8%.

As a result of Mother’s Day, some major online retail categories experienced growth. Many gift retailers saw an increase in revenue, where YoY weekly revenue growth shot up to +35.9% in w/c 12th March – this is the first positive figure in this category recorded since March 2022.

Looking at WoW for the same week, gifts saw a growth of +39.2% relative to the week prior. While this was a cause for celebration, the growth was short-lived; in w/c 26th March, there was a -44.1% (YoY) and -48.2% (WoW) decline in revenue. Although this largely owes to Mother’s Day being moved in the calendar, the declines in this category were noticeably lower than the levels of growth, and had not bounced back in the final week (-32.1% YoY). 

Another significant category this month was health & beauty, which saw its first positive YoY monthly growth in revenue in twenty-three months, at +3% (YoY). While this category often experiences turbulence, peaking in some weeks and experiencing sharp falls in others, YoY revenue was largely positive in the first two weeks of March (+12.3/+ 28.8%), and was driven by the subcategories beauty, makeup, and fragrance.

Says Andy Mulcahy, Strategy & Insight Director, IMRG: 

“The performance online was complicated this month, with the early weeks doing well as Mothers’ Day moved forward, followed by the steepest decline of the year so far (-13.6% YoY) for the after. It will continue to be skewed moving into April, as Easter moved forward a week this year and we saw a WoW increase of +15% for the home & garden category for the last week of March whereas there was a decline of -6.2% for the same week in 2022. How that balances out will determine whether April brings any signs of renewal online after a very long period of negative growth.”

Chris Price
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