James Hardiman, Junior Analyst, Retail Insight and Analytics, British Retail Consortium:

“April’s steady growth for retail website views has resulted in the fifth consecutive month around the 7 per cent mark. Although the steep decline in time spent browsing in conjunction with stability in average page views suggests it was a month of increased browsing rather than completing purchases.

“Summer fashions were the highlight of the categories, perhaps spurred on by improving weather as the month went on and the promise of sunshine to come, with both clothing and beauty products in the top three of the table for year on year growth. This was not all merely browsing for the latest trends, as it also translated to growth in sales. Footwear, Clothing and Health & Beauty were high on the list of in-demand categories in our Retail Sales Monitor for online sales.

“However, the shift in consumer focus left some categories behind in April, with Books, Stationary & Home Entertainment seeing the steepest decline, as outdoor activities were a greater draw.

“With the combination of an early Easter and colder than average weather up until this point, it is imperative that retailers optimise their online marketing strategies to make the most of the upcoming bank holidays – which are critical to a successful first half of the year.”

 

Giles Longhurst, SVP and General Manager, Hitwise

“Total online retail visits grew by 6.7% in April YoY, which was slower than March and February’s rises of 7.1% YoY. The earlier timing of Easter (falling at the start of the April in 2018, compared to the end of April in 2017) and turbulent weather conditions impacted both the high street and online results.

“Freezing temperatures at the start of the month had driven shoppers online, with searches for indoor renovations like “mould paint”, “indoor plants” and “bed with storage” growing 30%+ compared to last year’s Easter. Garden improvements were also last in consideration, with garden product searches dipping by 40% over Easter YoY. The second half of the month did bring some relief to the sector; House & Garden recovering sharply as weather conditions improved in time for the early May Bank Holiday.

“The welcomed heatwave in the latter half of April also boosted Clothing, Fitness and Footwear (+13.1% in April visits YoY), Health and Beauty (+9.8%) and Department Stores (+9.2%). But not all sectors saw a jump, with Books, Stationary and Home Entertainment declining by 4% YoY, continuing their struggle of compete with multi-category retailers and pure players.

“There were several key learnings from April’s results: the shift from the high street to online has accelerated, and the weather has an undeniable impact to the consumer’s desire and propensity to spend. Easter failed to see better results than last year, so the two upcoming May Bank holidays will become more important to promotional planning and H1 performance.”