The increase in ecommerce spending since pre-pandemic days appears to have settled in at about the 50% range despite the opening up of brick-and-mortar stores in many parts of the United States and elsewhere.
Overall ecommerce spending was down 1% for the week ending May 18, according to Signifyd Ecommerce Pulse data. The week’s pattern, in fact, was much like the previous week. Eight of the 13 major categories that the Pulse tracks were down for the week, seven of them by single-digit percentages. The modest changes, both up and down, left ecommerce spending up 49% since the last week of February, which marks the pre-pandemic baseline for spending.
One standout category during the week just ended was Beauty & Cosmetics, which was up 21% for the week. The category has been making an uneven, but steady, climb since the first week of April, which left the category up 34% over the end of February.
Potential mini-trends reveal themselves deeper in the data. For instance, it appears consumers have become more confident that they will be able to find the supplies they need, as signs of stockpiling have abated. Sales in the subcategory of Baby Products dropped 20% last week and Consumer Packaged Goods (think paper products) and Pet Supplies were down 8% and 3% respectively.
The week also marked a subtle shift in how consumers were spending to support recreation and diversion. Consider the Leisure & Outdoor category, which has been a strong performer throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Sales are up 132% in the vertical since the pandemic began, largely due to the fact that it includes games, puzzles, video games and in-home workout equipment.
But if you plunge into some of the subcategories in the vertical, you see a glimmer of evidence that homebound consumers are focusing more on getting outside as the shelter-at-home and modified shelter-at-home days drag on and the weather improves. For instance, sales of media, toys, hobbies and games fell 1% last week. Meantime, consumers spent 16% more on the outdoor subcategory, which includes equipment designed for camping, hiking and fishing.
Retail analysts had been wondering whether one particular indoor venue would draw consumers with new-found freedom — stores. Non-essential retailers are opening up in more states, at least for buy online, pick up in store and curbside pick up. But polling numbers, anecdotal evidence and data show that consumers are in no rush to shop in physical stores.
Opportunity Insights, a Harvard University-based, non-profit research center, found that the opening of businesses in states such as Georgia, Texas and South Carolina had little effect on consumer spending. In fact, spending in those states contracted before non-essential stores were ordered closed and appear to have not loosened up even as stores are being allowed to reopen.
A recent Harris Poll found that 89% of those surveyed had concerns about returning to physical stores to shop. And a Washington Post / University of Maryland survey found that 67% of consumers were not comfortable with the idea of going into an apparel store.
Yet, ecommerce continues to perform at peak-season levels, a pattern that we should see hold or increase as newly reopened stores rely on buy online pick up in store or at the curb, either to assuage customers’ fears or to adhere to local regulations.
Signifyd data showed BOPIS and BOPAC orders had reached more than 300% of their pre-pandemic level by last week It’s a trend that could very well grow as more states allow retailers to open despite some consumers’ concerns about shopping in store.