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Ecommerce sales see short-term drop as physical stores open in England

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Ecommerce sales in Europe dropped 54% week-over-week at the same time non-essential retail was given the OK to open in England, according to Signifyd’s latest Ecommerce Pulse data.

While it’s not possible to directly connect one to the other, The Guardian reported that in-store footfall during the week starting June 15 was up 45% over the previous week. Several outlets reported that British consumers exhibited a lot of pent-up demand for in-store shopping.

“There were also big queues outside the Nike store in Central London, although some complained there had been a lack of social distancing,” the BBC reported the day non-essential stores opened after being closed for three months. “In Manchester people waited for almost an hour outside Primark, TK Maxx and Foot Locker, although elsewhere demand was more subdued.”

It should also be noted that as enthusiastically as those who embraced in-store shopping embraced it, the number of shoppers out and about was nothing close to a normal pre-pandemic shopping day. In fact, The Guardian reported that footfall for reopening week was 54% below what it was the same week in 2019.

Though it seems the COVID-19 pandemic has been going on forever, it is still far too early to draw conclusions about shoppers’ behavior and how habits formed in the time of lockdowns and social distancing will affect the future of retail. Many have speculated that ecommerce is being propelled years into the future in terms of adoption.

Indeed, even with the 54% drop in online sales for the week ending June 21, overall ecommerce sales in Europe for the week were 35% higher than they were the first week of March, which we use as a pre-pandemic benchmark.

The most recent week did see some significant swings in some key retail verticals, according to the latest Pulse data. Sales in Business Supplies were up 59% week over week, a sign that shops and offices are opening up or planning to open up soon.

No other category came close on the upside, though Beauty & Cosmetics sales were up a respectable 13% week over week and Grocery & Household Goods were up 12%.

A number of categories endured rough weeks. Home Goods & Decor spending fell 29% week over week. The vertical has been a solid performer throughout the pandemic, as many consumers became much better acquainted with their homes. In fact, sales in the Home Goods & Decor vertical are up 162% over the pre-pandemic benchmark week.

Consumer Medical Supplies & Supplements was down 20% for the week, while both the General Merchandise and the Electronics categories fell 13% for the week.

It will remain interesting to watch the numbers in order to determine whether the opening of non-essential physical stores will have an effect on online sales. The Guardian, in its story about stores reopening in England, noted that footfall figures would have been higher in the UK, but that non-essential stores in Scotland and Wales had not yet opened.

“We anticipate an additional uplift to come when retail in these areas of the UK also reopens and the hospitality and entertainment industry is given the green light to resume trading in the coming weeks,” Diane Wehrle, of retail analytics company Springboard, told the Guardian.

Or it could be we find we’ve moved deeper into a genuine omnichannel world — one in which rather than take shoppers from each other, in-store and online commerce opportunities bring shoppers to one another.

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].