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Consumers continue to turn to ecommerce as more retail sales channels open


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As more retail channels open up in more places in the United States and the world, ecommerce sales are still 40% higher than they were in the pre-pandemic days, though weekly jumps in the double-digit percentages are no longer assured.

Overall ecommerce sales were down 8% for the seven-day period ending June 1, after rising only 1% the previous week. The figures appear to reflect a plateauing of sales increases rather than a reversal of fortune as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

The story was more nuanced than the overall numbers, as it always is.

The Business Supply vertical, which has largely been struggling since the World Health Organization declared the pandemic, for instance, had a strong week, up 16% from May 26 to June 1. It could be that as economies open up spending is up for business needs — but it’s a little too soon to know for sure.

The only other category that the Ecommerce Pulse regularly follows that posted an exceptional week was Commodities & Collectibles, a vertical that can run on emotion, as well as market forces, given that it includes precious metals, such as gold bars.

The category, which has seen some wild upswings since shelter-at-home orders began being issued, was up 24% for the most recent week. Overall, Commodities & Collectibles are up 48% since the last week of February, which serves as a pre-pandemic benchmark.

In all, six verticals in addition to Commodities & Collectibles find themselves outperforming ecommerce’s 40% overall spending increase compared to the benchmark week. Leisure & Outdoor is up 139% for the entire Ecommerce Pulse reporting period. Auto Parts & Tires has risen 79%; Electronics is up 78%; Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis increased 69%; Home Goods & Decor is up 46% and General Merchandise has climbed 41%.

Beauty & Cosmetics continued its rough run, after showing some signs of life in late April and mid-May. Spending in the category was down 16% two months into the pandemic after declining 18% the previous week. The slump has dropped the vertical into negative territory — down 8% compared to pre-pandemic spending. It joins Business Supplies (down 17% overall) as the only two categories exhibiting lower spending in the most recent week than they did before the pandemic.

Fashion, Apparel & Luggage and Luxury Goods both continued their on-again-off-again performances, both being off-again in the most recent week — apparel was down 15% and Luxury Goods were off 11%.

As has been the case in recent weeks, the shifts in spending — whether up or down — tended to be moderate. That can be a good sign, an indicator of stability and that both consumers’ states of mind and the ecommerce corner of the economy are steadying themselves in the face of disruption.

In fact, the only change reminiscent of the wild swings of the early weeks of the pandemic showed up in one subcategory the Ecommerce Pulse follows. Sales of Weapons & Accessories were up 79% week over week.

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.