Currys and PC World were also ahead year-on-year, up two and three places respectively on February 2011.
This quarter’s five fastest movers in the Hot Shops list were all travel brands. First Choice (up 37 places), Thomas Cook (+23), TravelRepublic.co.uk (+20), Thomson (+15) and Expedia (+12) all climbed in the rankings. Outside of the travel industry the fastest movers were LoveFilm.com (+10), Currys (+6), IKEA (+6) and PC World (+6).
Travel’s winter peak in January saw eleven travel brands rise in the rankings within the top 50. Premier Inn broke into the top 50 for the first time this quarter, and TravelRepublic.co.uk climbed 20 places on November to come back into the top 50.
As expected, this was a strong quarter for travel brands with the five fastest movers of the last three months all coming from this sector. Much like last year, it was the multi-channel travel agencies First Choice, Thomas Cook and Thomson that were the fastest-growing travel sites, although the airlines easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways all rose in the rankings too. By this measure First Choice’s decision last year to switch to purely all- inclusive holidays seems to have paid off, as the travel agency was ranked four places higher this year than in February 2011.
Post-Christmas shopping this year produced the biggest ever day of online shopping, with 96 million UK internet visits going to retail websites on Boxing Day 2011. In January it was the electronics providers and home improvements retailers that saw big increases in online traffic as consumers sought out big ticket items such as TVs, laptops, sofas, wardrobes and bathrooms. Currys, IKEA and PC World all jumped six places in the Hot Shops list since last quarter, while Homebase and Comet were also among this quarter’s rising websites.
Online-only brands also had a strong quarter. Four of the top 10 in the Hot Shops list this quarter are online-only, including fashion retailer ASOS which climbed two places to 10th position. ASOS was also one of four fashion brands including Next, New Look and Very.co.uk that improved on its position year-on-year. Video rental and streaming site LoveFilm.com climbed 10 places to 18th in the list.
James Murray, Marketing Research Analyst at Experian Hitwise commented: “Travel has done well this quarter despite some really challenging market conditions. In early December many of Europe’s ski resorts were struggling with a lack of snow and things were looking pretty bleak, but massive snowfall in mid-December restored confidence and this together with people planning spring and summer breaks has seen the market bounce back well.
“As we predicted, 2011 was another record-breaking year for online retail with 343 million hours spent shopping online in December. As with Christmas 2010 there is still a gap between multi-channel retailers and online-only retailers. For the last three years multi- channel retailers like Next, Argos and John Lewis have consistently received more traffic than the online-only specialists like Amazon and Play.com. However, some online-only brands are starting to level the playing field, as witnessed by the rise of ASOS, LoveFilm.com and the specialist travel brands in the rankings.”
Tina Spooner, Chief Information Officer at IMRG, commented: “These figures are consistent with what we’re seeing from the IMRG Capgemini Index, where sales in January for the travel sector were up 16% year-on-year, following what was a challenging year in 2011 for the online travel industry. The story is similar for the electronics retailers as well, where growth levels remained below average for the e-retail sector throughout 2011 but returned to fairly steady double-digit growth toward the end of the year.
“The November Hot Shops list coincided with the launch of the iPhone 4S and the passing of Steve Jobs, which resulted in surges of traffic to displace Argos from second place for the first time. However, Argos has now climbed back to its familiar position, which is unsurprising for a retailer that now makes 40% of its sales online.”
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 2012 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