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Consumers’ spending choices could offer a clue to what’s to come next


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Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data continued last week to tell the story of life during COVID-19 in specific retail verticals as opposed to dramatic increases in online spending overall.

After spiking in mid-April at a pace 85% higher than pre-pandemic levels, ecommerce spending has settled in at about 50% more than it was in the weeks leading up to the pandemic. For the seven-day period ending May 25, ecommerce spending was up 1% week-over-week, putting it at 51% higher than it was during the last week of February, which serves as a pre-pandemic benchmark.

As we pass the Memorial Day holiday in the U.S. and much of the world heads into summer, consumers seem to be easing up on pandemic purchases and returning to more typical buying patterns — with much more of that buying happening online than was the case before COVID-19.

Leisure & Outdoor spending, a category that became symbolic of shelter-at-home, saw its third straight week of declines during the week just ended. It could be that coinciding with news photos of relatively crowded beaches and parks, consumers are no longer stocking up on puzzles, games, video entertainment and home gym equipment. Indeed, if you drill into the vertical’s Media, Toys, Hobbies & Games subcategory, you’ll see a 12% drop in spending.

Even with last week’s overall drop of 5%, following weekly declines of 8% and 6%, sales in the Leisure & Outdoor category are up 137% over sales during the last week of February. Likewise, sales in Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis, a leading category during the pandemic, saw its fifth consecutive decline, dropping 4%. It’s still up 60% from pre-pandemic levels.

Also of note: Commodities & Collectibles, which has experienced some dramatic sales spikes during the pandemic fueled by precious metal sales, saw its most severe decline since the Ecommerce Pulse began tracking pandemic spending behavior. The somewhat volatile category’s 37% week-over-week drop matched its worst week, which was recorded in early April.

Another category that suffered its worst week in the pandemic era was Beauty & Cosmetics, which has been showing what retail consultant Shelley Kohan referred to as “sawtooth” behavior, perhaps owing to consumers’ uncertainty about spending in a down economy. The category was down 18% week over week, though still up 10% since the end of February.

Both Fashion, Apparel & Luggage and Electronics have seen some sawtooth behavior of their own during shelter-at-home. And both were on the upswing in the most recent week. Electronics was up 17% week over week, a performance that helped it crack the 100% mark for spending increase since the pandemic began. Overall, the category is up 109%

Fashion, Apparel & Luggage, which has had its share of disappointing weeks, was up 11% for the week ending May 25 and up 37% for the pandemic period.

In the end, the week overall might represent something of a pause in spending as consumers wait for end-of-the-month paychecks and to see what in-store shopping will be like as more retailers open brick-and-mortar stores in some modified way.

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.