Multichannel retailers led the way as online sales soared in the week beginning June 15, despite stores reopening their doors to the public.

Multichannel retailers saw a record 71% boost in online sales compared with 2019 as physical stores opened up.

This marks the highest growth ever recorded by the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Sales Index, which tracks the online sales performance of more than 200 retailers.

Week on week, multichannel retailers also reported a 4% rise in online sales.

Online retail sales across the industry also shot up by 41.3% year on year and 1.8% week on week.

The results were largely driven by an increase in sales of home and garden products and electricals, which were up 114.7% and 99.9% year on year respectively.

Health and beauty sales also fared well, rising 70.5% year on year. Online sales in this category dipped 2.5% week on week, but since many health and beauty stores have remained open during lockdown, this decline may not be associated with the reopening of the high street.

Despite the presence of heavy discounting, online fashion sales were flat week on week.

IMRG strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy said: “At first glance, it might seem a bit odd that the multichannel retailers – those with stores – recorded the highest online growth ever in the week that their stores reopened.

“It seems that all the fanfare around high streets opening again did spur an increase in sales activity, as people perhaps start to feel things are returning to something a bit closer to ‘normal’, but what that normal is going to be received some clarity.

“The bulk of that activity remains focused online, with shoppers visiting stores in much lower numbers but with a clearly focused intention to complete a purchase, as opposed to just browsing.

“It’s early days and the two-metre rule is set to be reduced to one-metre-plus soon, but a revealing indication of how shopper behaviour is now structured perhaps.” 

Capgemini retail insight managing consultant Lucy Gibbs added: “Multichannel retailers saw online sales go from strength to strength despite a hypothesis that the ability to spend in reopened stores would decrease the reliance on online shopping.

“As lockdown eases in an attempt to shift back towards the former pre-Covid-19 norm, the question remains: which consumer behaviours and trends will return, and which will have changed for the long term? Have consumer shopping habits irreversibly swung towards online shopping rather than in-store shopping? 

“Right now, it may be too early to unpick the patterns from consumers’ pent-up demand being released by the government’s decision to relax these measures, alongside an increased drive for consumer spending; it appears moving retail front of mind is also potentially causing a halo effect in digital sales.”