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Homebound consumers begin to look outward

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The latest Ecommerce Pulse data indicates that consumers are focused on getting out of their homes, as the verticals consisting of Luxury Goods, Beauty & Cosmetics and Fashion, Apparel & Luggage all continued to come out of hibernation during the week just ended.

In a week that saw more countries and U.S. states relax their stay-at-home restrictions, overall ecommerce spending was up 10% for the week ending May 4, with the biggest gains coming in categories associated with personal appearance and socializing.

It could be that shoppers have concluded that sweatpants and baseball caps aren’t going to cut it much longer.

Conversely, sales of toys, games, media and hobby materials were down slightly for the week as were Sporting Goods, which recorded some big weeks in March and April, perhaps because the sub-category includes at-home exercise equipment.

The week-over-week increase in overall ecommerce spending reversed the slight retreat in spending we saw last week. The boost means that ecommerce spending has increased 56% since the last week of February, a time before the full ramifications of the coming pandemic were widely understood.

The week-over-week increase in spending on luxury items, cosmetics and apparel — up 20%, 16% and 12% respectively — is fodder for jokes about Walmart selling far more tops than pants in the midst of the pandemic and the like, but it comes with a serious side, too.

Luxury Goods in particular had been battered by COVID-19 and the temporary store closings and shelter-at-home policies that resulted. By the end of March, the category’s sales had declined by more than 30% since a month earlier. Just a month ago, the category was down 24% from late February.

But a strong April has pushed the category to the point where the sales of Luxury Goods are up 37% since the last week of February.

Fashion, which saw sales fall 32% during the first month of the pandemic, showed its first signs of serious life two weeks ago, recording a 38% week-over-week sales increase. Last week’s strong performance has the category up 23% overall from its pre-pandemic level.

The Beauty & Cosmetics category is now up 15% since late February, recovering from a skid that saw its sales dip by 24% in the pandemic’s early going.

In fact, all but one of the 13 main categories that the Ecommerce Pulse tracks weekly are seeing an overall increase in sales since the week of Feb. 25. Business Supplies, the only category in the red for the full Pulse period, nonetheless recorded a strong week, with sales increasing 19% — possibly a sign that some businesses are investing in reopening plans.

While categories associated with getting out of the house were on the rise last week, a number of categories more associated with sheltering in place saw their sales fall week over week.

Besides media, toys, hobbies and games, which dropped 5%, and sporting goods, down 2%, Alcohol, Tobacco & Cannabis sales were down 2% for the week. The category, by the way, was still up 87% for the entire Pulse period, dating back to late February.

Also down was Commodities and Collectibles, a category that includes precious metals, such as gold bars. The category was down 9% for the week, but thanks to some impressive spikes in earlier weeks, the category was still up 87% for the entire Pulse period.

One sub-category, which showed strong sales early in the pandemic, before leveling off, was back in a big way last week. Sales of Weapons & Accessories were up 86% week over week.

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].