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COVID-19 drives consumers to the two Gs – groceries and gold


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Keep up with the latest on how COVID-19 is affecting retail and how merchants can best continue conducting business in the time of coronavirus

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From now on there will be before COVID-19 and after COVID-19, which is evident everywhere, but especially in consumer data. The week that the disease caused by the coronavirus was declared a pandemic, online sales spiked.

In particular, grocery sales were up 110% for the week of March 10 and the category that includes gold bars shot up 123%. The numbers tell the story of a collective desire for security and the ability to protect what is dear.

The sale of baby products soared 123% as employers began sending workers home indefinitely and rumors of stay-at-home orders began to circulate. Pet supplies sales were up 59%. And no, the difficulty in securing toilet paper was not just gallows humor — package goods were up 160%, no doubt driven by sales of TP and paper towels.

Clearly with the spread of coronavirus, appetites had changed. The sale of luxury goods dropped 20%; beauty and cosmetics were down nearly the same and electronics were off 15%.

Fraud trends also look to be changing amid the chaos and order spikes brought on by consumer anxiety. In a time when 43.1% of online shoppers tell Signifyd they use no more than four passwords across all their online accounts and 41.7% said they don’t change passwords on retail accounts, experts see a fraud wave coming.

The ecommerce environment is likely to provide the kind of chaos that fraud thrives in for weeks or months to come. Consider March’s gyrations:

  • The week of March 3 saw typical ups-and-downs in sales that could be seen for any number of reasons, during any number of times of the year.
  • The following week (March 10 to 16) saw the massive swings noted earlier.
  • The most recent week (March 17 to 23) saw swings moderate considerably.

In fact, data for the most recent week, ending March 23, showed some slowing of sales, with grocery sales down 19% and baby goods falling 38%. And toilet paper and paper towels? The sale of packaged goods dropped 21% in the week just ended. Even gold’s increase leveled off, with sales in Commodities & Collectibles rising 31%.

We’re collecting more data to determine whether the slowdown was because popular items were sold out and retailers couldn’t meet demand or because consumers were taking a break from stockpiling essentials. Where will consumers turn next?

There are indications that they are settling in at home for the long haul. Sales of Home Goods & Decor rose 15% the week of March 23 and the Leisure and Outdoor category was up 38%, perhaps reflecting purchases of exercise equipment, games, hobby-related items and outdoor furniture to make staying at home more stimulating and more comfortable.

Figures are derived from the Signifyd Commerce Network

Mike Cassidy

Mike is lead storyteller at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at mike.cassidy@signifyd.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.