Online retailers have suffered a blow as the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index revealed that transactions in February grew just 6% year on year, down on January’s bleak performance of 7%.

Online sales of clothing were hit hardest, increasing by just 4% year on year, compared to a boost of 20% in February last year.

However, industry experts remain hopeful that these figures are the result of a blip due to post-Christmas spending. Furthermore, retailers could look forward to a surge of clothing sales as spring approaches.  

“February’s Index would suggest there has been little cheer to be had for retailers so far this year,” said Alex Smith-Bingham, head of digital, consumer products and retail at Capgemini.

“Subsequent months will show whether this is a new pattern of steady muted growth or a blip.  As we move into spring and out of the cold winter months, shoppers will be keen to update their wardrobes and make the most of the new clothing lines being introduced.”

Valentine’s boost

There was some joy to be found in the sales index, with Valentine’s Day contributing to a healthy boost in a range of sectors, most notably in sales of gifts and lingerie, which increased 22% and 28% respectively.

“While the UK online retail market has seen a relatively weak start to the year, the latest results reveal a number of lower-ticket sectors performed well during February, including health & beauty, lingerie and gifts, which were no doubt boosted by Valentine’s Day,” said Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG.

The alcohol sector saw a strong month in February, which IMRG believes may be down to the end of ‘Dry January’. With the highest annual increase recorded for this sector since April 2011, online sales of alcohol increased 42% on the same period last year.

Capgemini’s Smith-Bingham added that a gradual uplift for sales is possible, starting this month, providing online retailers are fully prepared to take advantage of the warmer weather and changing consumer habits as spring sets in.