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As consumers search for their new normal, ecommerce sales rise and fall


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With European economies and businesses continuing to open up, the wild ups-and-downs in ecommerce spending by vertical appear to be calming down, but online sales remain well above pre-pandemic levels.

Overall, ecommerce sales were up 50% in the most recent week over spending the last week of February, which serves as a pre-pandemic benchmark. Initially, the higher sales were driven by stay-at-home orders and store closures, which made shopping any other way difficult, if not impossible.

More recently, another factor could be coming into play: Consumers who had not shopped online before, or who had not shopped online for certain items before, are sticking with habits formed during their lockdown.

The consumer behavior changes have left some ecommerce sectors seeing sales far beyond what was typical before the onset of COVID-19. Auto, Parts & Tires sales, for instance, were running 262% higher during the week that ended May 31, than they were at the end of February.

The evolution of those sales tell its own story. Early in the shelter-at-home period, sales in the category were fairly anemic. Then, about the second week of April, they began to take off, rising 34% the week ending April 12. Sales from then on moved in a line straight up, increasing weekly.

Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis sales provided their own twist on the story. They also were somewhat flat before taking off, though they took off earlier — the seven-day period ending March 22. They also climbed nearly straight up. But sales in the category dropped precipitously, beginning the week of April 20 — before enjoying a V-shaped recovery, as the economists say, accounting for sales in the category being up 59% overall compared to late February.

On a week-over-week basis, there were a few pieces of data of note. Luxury ended a solid two-week run in which sales were up 51% and then 14%. Spending in the category ended the most recent week down 19%. Still, the sector is up 8% for the entire Ecommerce Pulse period.

Medical Supplies & Supplements was also down 19% for the week, following a previous week, which was also brutal. The category was down 36% for the week ending May 24. Overall, however, the category finds itself up 26% over the February benchmark.

Ecommerce spending in Europe could continue to be choppy — up and down by vertical — as economies find their own ways when it comes to opening up. One of the next big tests for the sustainability of the large ecommerce increases will come June 15.

That’s when non-essential stores in the UK are allowed to open.

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.