James Hardiman, Analyst, Retail Insight and Analytics, British Retail Consortium:
“The stability in growth in retail visits, while welcome, is quite a surprise given the later timing of Easter this year which would in other circumstances help to drive year on year growth above that seen in the preceding month. It begs the question: How much of a decline would we have seen had this not been the case?
“However, this may not be an anomaly, as our Retail Sales Monitor also shows a slowdown in recent months, which suggests that this could be a function of an ever-increasing base from which to wring out growth.
“Despite this relatively meagre performance, there were some winners during the month. Food & Drink websites were the standout performers, rising to the top of the pile with 19% growth year on year. This is a clear example of the power that Easter has on the retail calendar and also the increase in consumer confidence in online retailing for Food – especially ahead of such an important culinary event.”
Giles Longhurst, SVP and General Manager, Hitwise
“The later-Easter at the end of April 2019, compared to the end of March in 2018, fell short of driving a significant uplift in online traffic. Online visits for the retail industry rose by only +0.7% year-on-year, which was the same level of growth as the previous month.
“But retailers are getting more effective at converting visits into purchases. Looking at 40 top retailers, the average conversion rate rose by +5.8% in April YoY (from 2.2% average to 2.4% average), primarily driven by dominant multi-category retailers.
“And whilst online traffic growth is slowing down, one category that bucked this trend was Food & Drink. Online visits grew by +18.8% year-on-year, which was a huge increase from +3.8% in April 2018. This year’s extraordinary weather over the Easter long week (with the UK hitting higher temperatures that the Mediterranean!) did benefit the category.
“Looking at the fastest-growing searches year-on-year, a number of new product trends also took hold. Searches for vegan Easter treats like “vegan Easter eggs” and “vegan cheese” grew by over 100% compared to last Easter. Health-conscious consumers were seeking “nitrate free bacon” and plant-based meat substitutes like “beyond burgers”.
“Retailers, particularly multi-category and in food, have stayed close to fast-evolving trends and are seeing double-digit growth in online traffic or in online conversions. This is a key learning as we enter the second half of the year.”