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Ecommerce sales are up 50% since the beginning of the global pandemic


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Ecommerce sales remained up more than 50% for the COVID-19 pandemic period, as wild gyrations in sales figures by retail vertical abated last week, according to Signfyd’s most recent Ecommerce Pulse data.

Spending for the week ending May 11, moved up and down in a narrow band, with the exception of Business Supplies sales, which dropped 23%, its biggest fall since the Ecommerce Pulse began tracking spending in late February.

On the positive side of the ledger, Luxury Goods sales were up 6% for the week, continuing a run going back to March 23, during which the category has not recorded a decline in sales. Overall, Luxury Goods sales are up 45% since the week of Feb. 25, which serves as a baseline for pre-pandemic spending.

Luxury Goods was also among last week’s bright spots, along with Fashion, Apparel and Luggage and Beauty & Cosmetics. The Fashion category and Beauty & Cosmetics category both had slower weeks, with Fashion sales falling 1% and Beauty down 4%. Still, Fashion is up 22% for the entire Pulse period and Beauty remains up 10%.

Overall, the week just ended saw 10 of the 13 categories the Pulse tracks weekly move up or down by only single-digit percentages and one — Home Goods and Decor — remained flat. The week produced numbers similar to the results from two weeks ago, including showing overall ecommerce sales down 3% for the week.

While we’ve been careful not to draw solid conclusions from one week of data, the most recent week’s numbers appear to fit a loose pattern. Overall ecommerce spending will run relatively hot one week and cool off the next. That said, this week’s 3% decline is one of only three in the 10 weeks studied by the Ecommerce Pulse that produced overall sales lower than the previous week.

It comes at a time when the consumer price index is at its most anemic since the Great Recession, falling 0.8% in April, and the core index, excluding food and energy prices, had its worst month since 1957.

While it is far too early to connect the two, when prices are falling in a recession, economists do worry that consumer spending will slow. The thinking is that consumers will hold back on buying in anticipation of even lower prices in the future.

There are also signs that consumers are bracing for tough financial times by saving more and spending less. The savings rate in the United States increased to 13.1% in March, up from 8% in February.

Finally, as more states and countries allow non-essential brick-and-mortar stores to open in some capacity, it will be interesting to see whether some of the new-found online spending reverts back to physical stores.

Whether and how the three trends develop will be something worth watching in the coming weeks and could provide some valuable clues as to how the recovery in general will unfold.

That said, ecommerce spending has increased dramatically overall since late February, meaning that a small pullback leaves spending at a level far beyond where it was before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. In fact, online spending in the week just ended was 51% higher than it was at the end of February.

Spending in every retail vertical, save one, that the Ecommerce Pulse tracks weekly remains higher than it was before the pandemic became a fact of life. In fact, they are well above pre-pandemic levels, with Leisure & Outdoor up 152%, Electronics up 88%, Commodities & Collectibles up 76% and Auto, Parts & Tires up 75%.

The only category in which sales have fallen below pre-pandemic levels is Business Supplies, which is down 28%, presumably due to the fact that many businesses have been closed for weeks or months.

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.