UK e-tailing set to accelerate to £14bn

The IMRG Index, which measures online shopping in the UK, hit 1,000 for the first time in April, rocketing past that symbolic marker to 1,152. The index started at 100 in April 2000, so the new level indicates an almost 12-fold increase in e-tail sales in three years.

E-commerce continues to accelerate: this April’s sales were 137.5 per cent higher than last year’s, whereas in April 2002, the comparable year-on-year growth was 85.1 per cent.

High street retail sales in April looked weak by comparison, showing a monthly rise of 0.3 per cent, just 4.3 per cent higher than April 2002, according to the Office for National Statistics.

UK e-tail sales are on track to be worth at least £14bn during 2003, up from £7.6bn in 2002. In the US, e-tail sales this year are expected to reach $100bn (£61bn), up from $74bn (£45bn) in 2002, according to Forrester Research. In 1995, internet shopping revenues worldwide were worth just $300m (£182.5m).

The clothing, footwear and accessories sector performed particularly well online in April, with sales 173 per cent higher than for April 2002.

Figleaves.com chairman Daniel Nabarro says: “Our sales have grown by 150 per cent over the past 12 months and the biggest challenge for our business is managing such rapid growth. Some secondary sectors like swimwear have far outpaced this growth and have convinced us that we can stretch our offer into new but complementary product areas.”

Paul Bond, director of voodooshoes.com, says: “Our online retail venture continues to defy retail conventions. It doesn’t appear to matter to the online consumer that Easter is late or that it’s raining outside, the figures keep growing year on year at an exponential rate. Repeat customer purchases are growing, and these customers are proving to be fantastic advocates for buying online.”

Seth Dashper, marketing manager at I Want One Of Those, adds: “The challenge now for companies with no established high street presence is to convince late-adopters to look to Web-only merchants when they take the inevitable plunge online, rather than simply the online channel of their usual high street stores.”

More than 80 e-tailers contributed data to the IMRG April Index, including TheAA.com, eKingfisher, John Lewis, Kodak and Lastminute.com.

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