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Ecommerce spending is up 46% since COVID-19 restrictions began

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The dramatic COVID-19-induced rise in ecommerce spending saw record acceleration during the week just ended, most likely fueled by government stimulus payments meant to stoke the economy while keeping consumers on their feet.

Ecommerce sales increased at their highest rate since late February, shooting up nearly 25% during the week that ended April 20, according to Signifyd’s Ecommerce Pulse data. This week’s jump far surpassed the previous record of 18% recorded just the week before. It also contributed to a 46% increase in ecommerce spending overall since late February.

Consumers spent broadly last week, buying into some categories that had generally suffered since the coronavirus began to dominate the news and jurisdictions started issuing stay-at-home orders. In fact, by the end of the week, every retail category — save one — showed an increase in sales for the entire period covered by Ecommerce Pulse data.

Spending patterns showed a mix of consumers using their stimulus money (up to $1,200 per taxpayer) to satisfy pent-up demand, fill needs for practical items and possibly fortify their savings by investing in non-cash assets.

In terms of pent-up demand, some categories that had scuffled along for stretches of the stay-at-home period saw strong sales. Auto, Parts & Tires was up 56% for the week, building on a positive run that started more modestly at the end of March. The category is now up 90% for the entire Ecommerce Pulse period, which started Feb. 25.

Electronics experienced some much-needed relief, with revenue up 38% for the week, a far better showing than early weeks of double-digit losses, followed by gains in the low single digits. Also up 38% was Fashion, Apparel and Luggage, a category that had been more battered than benefited by the shift in consumer spending. And shoppers returned to Consumer Medical Supplies and Supplements after four weeks where the category’s change in sales ranged from a low of declining by 18% to a high of being up just 8 percent.

Consumers also moved back into some categories that had cooled after seeing big spikes early in the shelter-at-home period. It’s reasonable to assume that stockpiled supplies were again beginning to run low, as spending on Pet Supplies increased 25% for the week after being down 5% the previous week. Consumer packaged goods — including toilet paper, paper towels and cleaning supplies — was up 13% after four straight down weeks, including a 21% drop in late March. And Adult Toys & Novelty, a category that saw sales drop 5% two weeks ago, was up 46% for the week just ended.

Commodities & Collectibles, which saw one of the largest weekly increases early on, was again a high-demand category with sales up 61%. The keen interest in the vertical, which includes precious metals such as gold and silver, might indicate that some stimulus-pay recipients are mooring their wealth in what they consider to be safe harbors in volatile economic times.

Despite the uncertain times, consumers continue to spend and with all but essential brick-and-mortar stores closed, they are doing their spending online. The Ecommerce Pulse uses the week of Feb. 25 to March 3, as a benchmark — a time before the coronavirus was top of mind for most consumers and a time before shelter-at-home orders had begun.

Between that time and now, ecommerce spending is up nearly 50%, according to data collected from Signifyd’s Commerce Network, a collection of thousands of retailers selling in more than 100 countries. And while the magnitude of increase in sales varies by retail category, spending is up nearly across the board. (With most businesses closed, Business Supplies is down 25% since the benchmark week.)

Some steady performers continued to post impressive gains leading to gaudy overall growth figures for the entire period covered by Ecommerce Pulse data.

Leisure & Outdoor, which includes games, toys, puzzles and indoor exercise equipment, is up 141% for the period. Spending in the Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis category increased 127% over the time studied. Auto, Parts & Tire’s big week now has it up 90% overall. And Electronics spending has increased by 73% since late February.

Mike Cassidy

Mike Cassidy

Mike is the head of storytelling at Signifyd. A former journalist and a retail geek, he covers ecommerce and the way technology is transforming digital commerce. Contact him at [email protected].