Online retail parcel volumes were up 8.5% in January, according to the IMRG Metapack UK Delivery Index – falling -37.5% on December, in line with the month-on-month trend in previous years.

The rate of growth for parcel volumes was below that of online retail revenue growth (which was +15% – see more), with high street sales also performing well. There are a few possible reasons for this. One explanation for this disparity may be an increase in sales of larger, big ticket items in January where the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index recorded growth of +15% for both the home and garden and electricals sectors. The delivery index does not include 2-man deliveries and an increase in such orders would inflate the value of sales more than the volume of items delivered. In addition, the increase in the average order value of parcel deliveries hints at may a shift in buying behaviour.

This increase in personal, as well as gift buying in the heavily discounted Black Friday period may have reduced demand for post-Christmas bargains with stock able to sell at slightly higher margins in January than previously. While the overall basket value in the e-Retail Index was slightly down (possibly driven by falls in basket values for larger-ticket sectors) the average order value for parcel deliveries was actually up by 26% on January last year which overall suggests the value of sales outstripped the volume of sales.

Andrew Starkey, head of e-logistics, IMRG: “It may be that we have seen a shift in shopper behaviour. Of course retailers still have unsold lines that need to be discounted and sold in the post-Xmas sales period but perhaps the shopper desire to hunt out New Year bargains at the same rate of discount is less due to the activity around Black Friday. Higher order values are good news for retailers and supporting retailer confidence as we start 2016 is the fact that 93.6% of orders in January were delivered on-time – the best January performance since 2011-12, which may be attributable to the carry-over of additional resources put in place by carriers over the peak period.”

Kees de Vos, chief product officer at Metapack, said: “It is an interesting development following an unprecedented peak at the end of last year, and it may herald a change in the way that consumers respond to the heavy focus on retail promotions. We will be watching closely over the next month to see if volumes bounce back to their expected levels.”