The UK online travel sector has enjoyed a strong few months, with Thomas Cook and First Choice leading the way, according to the latest ‘Hot Shops’ list from the IMRG and Hitwise.
Travel had a very strong quarter with the five fastest moving brands all coming from the travel sector.
Travel agencies Thomas Cook (up 27 places) and First Choice (+21) saw the biggest gains of the quarter followed by Thomson (+15), Travel Republic (+15) and British Airways (+12).
Consumer electronics also had a good quarter with Apple (+4), Currys (+6), and Comet (+5) all moving up in the Hot Shops list.
Year-on-year the most improved performers were Sainsbury’s (+19), IKEA (+10) and House of Fraser (+19).
All of these brands also showed improvements compared to last quarter, with Sainsbury’s now a firm fixture of the top half of the Hot Shops list.
Department stores generally had a solid quarter with John Lewis, Debenhams and House of Fraser all improving on their position from last quarter.
Only M&S dropped this quarter falling three places since November and two places since February 2010.
This quarter was dominated by the travel brands which had a spritely start to 2011. January is always a big month for travel with consumers looking for ski holidays, spring breaks and early deals on their summer holidays.
In particular the travel agencies saw strong growth led by Thomson (ranked 11) Expedia (12) and Thomas Cook (13). Airlines easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways all improved on last quarter’s position with easyJet returning to the top 10 for the first time since February 2010.
This year saw the busiest post-Christmas shopping period ever seen online. In particular, big ticket items such as TVs and laptops were in high demand before the VAT increase on 4 January 2011 which no doubt contributed to the success of electronics brands like Apple, Currys and Comet this quarter.
Consumers turned to multi-channel retailers this quarter and there was certainly evidence of an overlap between offline promotions and online traffic. Department stores such as John Lewis, House of Fraser and Debenhams all improved on last quarter’s performance and IKEA jumped 10 places thanks in part to a large multi-channel advertising campaign in the run-up to Christmas.
All of the fashion brands dipped in the rankings, despite a very successful Christmas for some of the multi-channel fashion brands. Next, Topshop, New Look and River Island all went down in the Hot Shops list this quarter, although all of these brands have improved their position year-on-year.
IMRG’s CEO, James Roper, commented: “The travel sector always performs well after Christmas is finished for another year, and the freezing weather was likely to have made sunny destinations seem very appealing. The multi-channel retailers are continuing to power ahead in terms of traffic, which tallies up well with some of the results reported from the likes of John Lewis and House of Fraser in December.
“The entry of Best Buy into the UK market has increased the competitiveness of the electricals sector, and the need to respond with offers may have had some influence on Currys’ improved position. The economic conditions are tough, but early indications are that the year is getting off to a good start for online retailers.”
Robin Goad, Director of Research at Experian Hitwise commented: “As we expected travel brands have had an excellent quarter and are benefiting from increased consumer searches for Easter breaks and summer holidays. The January VAT increase has also spurred consumers to buy expensive electronics goods in December, though there is likely to be a backlash next quarter as a result of the new 20% VAT rate.
“What we saw over Christmas was that fashion retailers are increasingly relying on social media to deliver traffic to their websites and the announcement of an ASOS store on Facebook this January is an exciting development for online retail. Taking this into account, the fashion brands should recover quickly from this quarter’s dip in performance.”
IMRG Experian Hitwise Hot Shops List
KEY: /denotes movement up / down since November 2010. denotes same place. BACK – are sites that were previously in the top 50 list. NUMBERS denote ranking, 1-50
The IMRG-Experian Hitwise Hot Shops List of the top 50 UK e-retailers* is the key indicator of online merchant performance. The List is published quarterly and tracks popularity, as indicated by visits, of those selling goods and services within the IMRG Capgemini Index Classification**. This List is based on January 2011 data.
* The IMRG-Experian Hitwise Hot Shops List excludes eBay and price comparison / aggregator websites such as Kelkoo and Froogle.
** IMRG Capgemini Index Classification: Beer / wine / spirits; Books; CDs / tapes / records; Clothing / footwear / accessories; Computer hardware / peripherals / consumables; Consumer electronics; Digital downloads (e.g. music, software); Flowers; Food, beverages and household supplies; Furniture; Garden / DIY; Health and beauty; Home appliances (e.g. washing machines); Household goods (e.g. kitchenware, bedding); Jewellery / watches; Software; Sporting goods; Tickets (e.g. cinema, theatre, events); Toys; Travel (e.g. flights, holidays, hotels, car hire); Video games; Videos / DVDs