With rainfall above average in January, and the lowest January high street footfall recorded in five years, consumers turned to online shopping in the beginning of the year.
Even the expected post-Christmas month-on-month (MoM) decline in sales from December to January, which fell by 20.4 percent, was less than the five year average drop of 24.1 percent.
The electricals sector performed well growing by 4.4 percent. Similarly, sales growth for the clothing sector was up 16.8 percent year-on-year, its strongest January growth since 2013. Footwear, menswear and womenswear growth were broadly in line with the five year average, with YoY growth of 13.3 percent, 10.4 percent and 6.9 percent respectively.
This solid start to the year was achieved despite a drop in the overall market conversion rate to +4.3 percent from +4.5 percent last year. Sales via smartphones are also increasing at a lower rate than last year, up 39.3 percent YoY in January, while growth through tablets suffered a decrease in YoY growth of -10.0 percent.
Justin Opie, managing director, IMRG: “14 percent growth for January represents a strong start to the year, arguably even surprisingly so. The economic climate remains challenging, with inflation remaining at 3% and an interest rate rise anticipated over the next few months.
“The impact on retail was very apparent in January, with several very large retailers announcing store closures and job cuts – high street footfall also fell to a five-year low for January. Yet online appeared to benefit from that, with the index recording the lowest month-on-month decrease (-20.5 percent) between December and January in five years.”
He added: “It may be that, as we enter 2018, we are seeing signs of an acceleration of the general move over to online, putting pressure on those retailers with large store portfolios to sharpen their focus on rolling out their digital strategy.”