Despite February’s year-on-year online retail growth dropping even lower than the previous month’s record, there were signs of a return to normal spending patterns within the broader set of results, according to the Index, which tracks the online sales performance for over 200 retailers.

While February’s dip to -27% means it replaces January as the lowest ever month of growth, the figure is not as negative as it may seem, comparing it to 60% growth in February 2021 – the highest growth the index has recorded in its 22 years. In fact, measuring February 2020 against February 2022 shows that sales are actually 16.1% higher now than they were just before the pandemic began.

On a similar note, month-on-month growth was also down by 7.7%, which is in line with the normal range of growth from January to February. Meanwhile, Average Basket Value (ABV) has risen for the first time since it reached a peak last August – climbing from GBP108 in January to GBP124 for February. 

At a category level, womenswear and menswear appear to be doing well, up 25.7% and 17% respectively. However, clothing as a whole was brought down by accessories and lingerie, which are still experiencing negative growth at -13.3% and -28.3%. Again, when compared to last year’s figures, footwear, menswear, and womenswear were the only categories to record positive year-on-year growth.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG, says: “The unprecedented disruption from the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021 has made understanding the wild fluctuations in online growth difficult at times; 60% growth in February last year was followed by a record low this year, but overall online revenues are way up on where they were pre-pandemic.

“Now, for the first time since it began, the trading patterns between months have looked settled for a few consecutive months, which tells us the online/offline split is probably now set at the much-feted ‘new normal’. But, just as the pandemic seems to be abating in the UK, it looks like global events could potentially bring further economic and supply chain impacts. From the perspective of businesses, ‘normal’ in the 2020s is proving to mean turmoil and sudden shifts that are going to be difficult to navigate.”

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