The U.S. economy in numbers: From February to March eCommerce took center stage pushing physical retail behind the scenes
Coronavirus launched the economy into an eCommerce shopping frenzy. By March 15th, 23% of American consumers admitted to purchasing products online which they had previously purchased at physical retail locations
Shift in the purchase of products online normally bought in-store in light of coronavirus in the United States as of March 15, 2020
Image Source: Statista
By the end of March the number of American consumers who expected to increase their online shopping habits hit 37%!
In fact, data collected in a joint effort by Luminati Networks and QuickLizard was able to shed light on a major consumer shift online which will most likely last way after the coronavirus pandemic has passed. Some of the most attention-grabbing stats include:
- A 15% increase in senior citizens who started shopping online when compared with the same period a year prior.
- A YOY increase of 900% in the sales of electronics was observed, and in large part attributed to one of history’s largest work-from-home experiments.
- The U.K. experienced a 500% YoY increase in online grocery sales while the U.S. saw a mind boggling YoY upwards trend of 800%!
Do you expect to spend more or less on goods from online marketplaces because of the coronavirus?
Image Source: Statista
Needless to say, many bricks and mortar retailers were spooked by these eCommerce-facing trends with a whopping 47% of American business owners expecting COVID-19 to have a negative impact on their retail revenue streams.
What are your financial expectations for your retail business relative to the coronavirus?
Image Source: Statista
And the truth of the matter is that retailers’ fears were not in vain. According to Statista, many retail sectors in the U.S. saw a significant drop in sales between February and April. Most notably:
- Clothing stores saw a decrease of 50.5% in retail sales
- Furniture, motor vehicles and hobby items saw an average decline of 25%
- Electronics saw a decrease of 15%
At the same time, the Luminati Networks and Quicklizard data insights project saw similar negative online trends with consumers focusing mainly on essentials. Based on this research photography equipment sales dropped 55 percent YoY, and sunglasses and reading glasses faced a 50 percent reduction in sales as well.
Impact of COVID-19 on monthly retail sector sales in the U.S. from February to March, 2020
Image Source: Statista
What narrative is live data telling us about the future of in-store retail?
Luminati in collaboration with QuickLizzard, have partnered in order to piece together a snapshot of consumer sentiment in countries around the world who were exposed to COVID-19 before the U.S. and as such are on a shorter path to an exit strategy. This data may very well be able to serve as a good indication as to the future retail climate in America as well as other late blooming countries as far as COVID-19 economic healing is concerned.
Live data regarding Germany, the Nordic countries and Israel indicate changes in consumer shopping trends
For consumers in Israel, Germany and the Nordic countries, April 2020 showed an increase in online shopping tendencies when compared with March 2020. Consumers in these countries continued to buy their groceries, and electronics online. However, as the calendar turned to May and retailers started resuming operations, we witnessed a decline in online sales.
In fact, electronics retailers in Germany, the Nordic countries, and Israel:
- Experienced a 10% decrease in online sales between the last week in April and the first week in May.
- Home office equipment, including laptops, showed a 20% decline, while profits in printers dropped by about 9%.
- Groceries also experienced a drop in online sales, as consumers headed back to stores.
The logical conclusion: After being locked down for months, consumers want to physically go to stores and return to normal.
Israel, which lagged behind other countries in online sales, is seeing higher volumes of grocery sales than other places, although electronics are still being purchased online at a higher rate today than before the pandemic, possibly indicating the lasting effects of coronavirus on long term shopping habits.
In Germany and the Nordic countries, consumers are heading back to stores but at a slower pace than customers in Israel. In the former countries, when we compare sales between May 2020 to May 2019, in-store shopping is about 50% of what it was a year ago. May online shopping decreased by 30% year over year, and was not compensated by in-store shopping.
Pet stores, which were considered essential, stayed open throughout the lockdowns, but consumers did most of their pet food and product shopping online. May has shown a 10% decrease in online shopping revenue and a 15% decrease in the number of items sold.
This possibly indicates: that bricks and mortar operations stand to suffer a lasting decrease in foot traffic and revenues while some eCom sectors stand to suffer, at least in the short term, due to a decline in consumer’s level of disposable income.
These statistics serve as a strong indication of a possible consumer-driven recession. Many people have lost their primary source of income and fear a second wave of coronavirus outbreak which may be leading them to hoard their disposable income to help them weather the plausible next phase of the storm.
Consumer panic buying and stockpiling is on the decline
Toilet stockpiling became the butt of many jokes and even an entire website (howmuchtoiletpaper.com) dedicated to helping consumers decide how much toilet paper they really need in order to survive the apocalypse.
But in truth, essentials stockpiling or its decline, for that matter, is actually indicative as to the core consumer’s state of mind. In early March, hand sanitizer sales were up 800% compared to the same period a year prior. By early May, these sales were up a ‘mere’ 345%. Over that same period, toilet paper sales were still up 81% compared with sales figures for that same period a year earlier, yet down significantly from its February, and March peaks.
The logical conclusion: Consumers overbought a lot of products when the lockdowns first began. However, now they are seeing that manufacturers have caught up with supply, and they don’t need to stockpile a year’s worth of essential products. Also, the general effects of stockpiling may very well be a negative impact on sales for essentials (both online and offline) as consumers have enough to last them months in advance putting these industries at high risk in the short term.
Summing it up
As many countries, economies, and businesses are feeling around in the dark trying to find their way out of the coronavirus cave, real-time data is the only real beacon of light. Speculation, and/or historical trends have proven worthless in the face of this unprecedented pandemic which is why businesses need to understand and act on what is actually happening!