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Retail brightens in Europe, powered by ecommerce

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Ecommerce sales in Europe remained steady week over week with consumer spending online still substantially higher than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic set in, according to Signifyd’s latest Ecommerce Pulse data.

Indeed, online spending overall was up 22% in Europe during the week ending July 26, compared to the pre-pandemic benchmark of early March. The number is the latests in a series of bits of good news about commerce and the European recovery. As has been the case since early March, the real short-term story is more evident in the fluctuation within key retail verticals.

For the week just ended, Auto, Parts & Tires, Leisure & Outdoor, Home Goods & Decor and Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis all had strong showings, with sales up from 15% to 26%, depending on the category. A number of those categories have been doing well since the beginning of the pandemic. Compared to pre-pandemic figures, sales in the auto-related category were up 214%, home goods were up 152% and leisure was up 67%.

Meantime, some verticals’ online sales are suffering during the pandemic, even as the sector overall is doing quite well. For instance, General Merchandise, generally meaning department store online sales, are down 20% since the pandemic started and Fashion, Apparel & Luggage is up only 5%, which certainly beats being down.

We have all become somewhat accustomed to the “on the one hand, on the other hand” nature of regular retail verticals’ reports in the era of coronavirus. It is fair to say that the news regarding retail ecommerce in Europe has been generally positive of late, with a side helping of gloom and angst. The New York Times reported earlier this month, that countries like France and Germany were seeing retail sales approaching pre-pandemic levels.

In the UK, the National Office of Statistics reported that with the June numbers in, its countries were also seeing sales figures that all-but equaled sales before the pandemic. Meanwhile, retail measurement experts Springboard reported that the momentum had continued in July. During the week ending July 25, the company reported that footfall throughout the UK was up 4.4%, nearly matching the 4.5% increase the previous week. A joint report from The British Retail Consortium and KPMG added that on a like-for-like basis, UK retail sales in June were up nearly 11% year-over-year. The figure did not include temporarily closed stores and did include online sales.

The side helping of gloom and angst comes from the fact that retail gains and consumer enthusiasm is not reflective of the economy overall and is not necessarily an indicator of what is to come. In releasing the joint report, KPMG’s UK Head of Retail Paul Martin noted that months of no or reduced sales has threatened the existence of “many” retailers.

“While the easing of social distancing restrictions is of course welcome news, the challenges and longer-term consequences for the industry have far from disappeared, and not all categories of retail are benefitting from this post-lockdown boom,” Martin said in a written statement.

It is the nature of our time that we can study the data we have today and use it to plan for tomorrow. But as we’ve seen over the last four-plus months, some things are simply beyond anticipation.

Photo by Getty Images

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].