Online sales growth reached its highest level in more than a decade last year as the Covid-19 pandemic spurred a shift in shopping habits.

Online sales climbed 37% in December, bringing growth for the full year to 36% – the highest rate since 2007 – according to the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index.

Multichannel retailers outperformed pureplay competitors over December and the course of the year. Multichannel players notched up sales growth of 52.4% in December, as stores closed because of coronavirus restrictions, while pureplays generated growth of 11.4%. Their yearly growth was 57% and 9.1% respectively.

Categories such as gardening and electricals were among the best performers but 2020 ”proved a dismal year for clothing”.

Capgemini retail insight managing consultant Lucy Gibbs said: “Retail in 2020 has been fundamentally shaped by the pandemic, which caused disruption to consumer demand norms and a shift in focus to digital channels.”

IMRG strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy added that the pace of change made it difficult to forecast performance this year.

He said: “We could end up with a year where significant pandemic disruption lasts for the first quarter, the first half or most of the year – shopper spend might divert strongly to experiences and holidays if things open up again, the economic situation might lead to a squeeze on spend – the list of potential macro variables goes on.

”This might be a year where we have to adjust our understanding of what good looks like. For example, while growth in Q1 will probably look similar to previous lockdown rates, from April in 2020 those rates were extremely high and will be hard to build upon.”