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Online BWS sales slump

Published:  13 April, 2021

Year on year online beer, wines and spirits (BWS) sales slumped 6.7% in March, making it the only category online to record negative growth, according to IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.

However, the drop tracks against a 105.7% jump for March 2020, when many Brits turned to online alcohol shopping as a result of the first lockdown.   

In comparison, March continued to demonstrate strong overall online growth, up 71.7%, according to Capgemini, which tracks the online sales performance of over 200 retailers.  

“As we pass the anniversary of the first UK lockdown, the trends from the last 12 months have started to reach a turning point,” said Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant - retail insight, Capgemini.   

“BWS was one of the initial categories to benefit, up 105% year on year in March 2020 but which is now down.

“As speculated, we are likely to continue to see a reversal of some of the recent highs and lows against an unprecedented year of category swings in 2020,” she said. 

This, added Gibbs, would be “good news” for the sectors which were hardest hit last year. 

“As stores open alongside an increase in consumer confidence it will hopefully provide a boost in overall spending, with an expectation that online will remaining central to our shopping habits,” she said. 

Matthew Walsh, director of data and retail, IMRG, added: “Online retail is poised for turbulent months ahead as lockdown restrictions ease and social plans become reality. 

"That said, the ‘unlocking’ of physical stores had little immediate impact on the online retail market last year – in fact, we saw a one-month gap between the reopening of non-essential high street shops and the on-trade. It was only once bars opened and the ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme arrived that online growth started to fall,” he said.

With the high street reopening this month, a similar one-month gap could be expected for 2021, Walsh predicted. 

“It will certainly be interesting to find out if pent up demand changes the trading balance or if we will see online retail have breathing space until May,” he said. 

In February, CGA research pinpointed wine as the most popular online purchase during the pandemic.