Online clothing sales, which have suffered throughout each of the lockdowns, recorded their highest growth since 2017

Online clothing sales, which have suffered throughout each of the lockdowns, recorded their highest growth since 2017

UK clothing sales recorded their highest growth since 2017 in January, new figures show, helping boost overall online sales.

The latest IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers, found that despite the tightening of lockdown measures across the UK, January recorded the highest online sales since the pandemic began at 74% year-on-year. This is also highest January sales on record since 2008.

The boom in sales was reflected across all categories, with health and beauty, and beer and wine sales up 102% year-on-year, and 105%, respectively. Electrical sales remained extremely high with growth of 206%.

As January discounts rolled out widely even clothing sales, which have suffered throughout each of the lockdowns, recorded their highest growth since 2017 at 22% year-on-year.

Other notable spending trends in January include the surge in online-only retail sales, as consumers navigated the total shut down of the high street. While the gap between multichannel and online only has widened since the viral outbreak, the latter surged to a pandemic high of 31.2% year-on-year. Similarly mobile commerce was up 169.1% – the highest rise in spend since 2013.

"75% year-on-year growth is the highest we've seen in any month across the whole of the pandemic and almost tn times the growth in January last year," says Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant, retail insight, Capgemini. "January typically sees more subdued sales and a drop off from Christmas trading, however the anticipation of a 'return to normal' met the reality of challenges in an ever-evolving pandemic and customers once again turned to online shopping during the third national lockdown. An uptick in clothing performance is promising for the sector, which was hard hit last year, perhaps an anticipation of change in the new year boosted by sales and new season products.

"The gap between retailers who thrived last year and those who were struggling to survive is becoming clear as news of brand consolidations are hitting the headlines with a focus on online value over the physical estates; what this means for the high street is yet to be determined, however, it is clear that digital interactions will further dominate the future shopping experience."

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, adds: "The big change in online volumes was recorded between March and April when the month-on-month growth rate (which measures whether more or less money was spent in that month than the previous one) was up 37%; it is usually flat between March and April. Since then the month-on-month rate has been much closer to where we'd expect it to be each month, which tells you that volume shifted online and has stayed there. Between December 2020 and January 2021 we've seen another big month-on-month gap appear, where the decline in volume following Christmas was only -20%, whereas it is usually around -35%. The introduction of the third lockdown, which is much stricter than the second, has served to supercharge online sales again for almost every product category – there were seven that recorded year-on-year growth of 170%+ in January."