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Online sales heat up thanks to cold snap

David J Smith

t’s been another impressive year for online fashion, as might be expected when we exper­ience such prolonged cold weather as we had at Christmas.

It’s been another impressive year for online fashion, as might be expected when we exper­ience such prolonged cold weather as we had at Christmas. Sales of items such as scarves, coats and jumpers meant fashion retailers like Marks & Spencer posted exceptionally strong results for this period.

The IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, which covers all retail sectors, started to record a massive increase towards the end of November as snow prevented people getting about. In fact we saw the strongest year-on-year growth in the clothing sector for 19 months.

In recent years, the first Monday of December has stood out as the busiest online shopping day, but this year we saw a shift in the trend, with the first two weeks of December showing peak activity.

We will have to see if this is repeated next year to assess whether it marks a shift in consumer behaviour, or whether it was just down to the extreme weather.

People may have started their Christmas shopping early, but they were also even more ready to buy fashion online. Year-on-year conversion rates for the fashion sector were up 50% for both November and December.

There could be a number of reasons for this. Could it be greater interaction between the offline and online channels, with people trying on clothing before ordering? Is it a reflection of more advanced and interactive merchandising on websites, such as the use of videos for product launches and enhanced viewing options? Or could social media be playing a role, with people recommending items they think would suit their friends and doing the retailers’ targeting work for them?

It will certainly be fascinating to find out just how big an effect these areas can have.

David Smith is managing director of etail trade body IMRG

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