Overall online spending increased 3% during the seven-day period ending June 15, as most retail verticals continued to see only moderate ups and downs when it comes to online sales. That said, the two largest week-over-week increases came in categories that have had their share of rough weeks during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Fashion, Apparel & Luggage category saw sales rise 13% over the previous week. Overall, spending in the category is 25% higher than it was during the week of Feb. 25 to March 2, which we’ve used as a pre-pandemic benchmark.
Likewise, spending on Beauty & Cosmetics rose 12% for the week. That was not enough to allow the category to claw its way back from a deep hole compared to pre-pandemic days. Beauty & Cosmetic spending overall remains at 21% below its pre-pandemic level.
Ecommerce spending for all categories for the week just ended is up 33% over the late February / early March benchmark week.
All of this comes on a day when the New York Times and others were reporting on what was a spectacular May for U.S. retailers — at least spectacular by the numbers. Retail sales, including online and in-store, rose 17.7% month-over-month, a record increase, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. The caveat, of course, is that the May surge is in comparison to April’s numbers. April set a different retail record — it saw the worst monthly decline in retail sales on record.
Still, this is a time when retailers are anxious in general and are particularly anxious for good news. That goes for consumers, too, who have by all evidence been enthusiastically greeting the opening up of the economy. News videos and photographs have shown open restaurants; crowded bars and beaches; and lines to get into some brick-and-mortar stores.
Stimulus payments to U.S. taxpayers also likely played a role in May’s bright numbers. On May 20, the government distributed stimulus payments using 4 million prepaid debit cards. Comparing transactions using that brand of debit card before and after May 20, reveals a 28.4% increase in spending in the stimulus period.
Signifyd data shows that Business Supplies spending through the payment method increased 228% after the stimulus and Home Goods sales were up 191% — potentially signs that a significant number of U.S. residents were preparing to reopen small businesses, while another segment was still focused on making improvements at home.
The feeling of increased freedom brought on by the loosening of pandemic-related rules could be a factor in the boost to apparel and cosmetic sales. Signifyd data showed a similar bump at the end of April, as the weather in much of the world was turning pleasant for the first time this year and consumers shifted spending from stay-at-home items to getting-out-of-the house items.
Other than the significant increases in apparel and cosmetics — and a respectable 9% increase in electronics sales — the main verticals followed by the Pulse moved up or down in a fairly narrow band. Grocery & Household Good was down 7%. Sales of Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis, and Commodities & Collectibles both fell 5%.
Some subcategories showed more significant movement. Baby Products spending was down 15%. Weapons & Accessories, which posted a big sales increase two weeks ago, dropped 13% in the most recent week. And sales in Party, Gifts & Occasions were up 30% headed into Father’s Day weekend.