With bricks-and-mortar shops shuttered, consumers turn to the web to make purchases during the coronavirus pandemic. However, web sales are varying widely by category, research shows.

Ecommerce spending is up more than 40% year-over-year since President Trump declared a state of national emergency on March 13, according to an analysis of spending trends at 850 retail sites by digital marketing vendor Listrak. However, not all categories benefited from the emergency.

With many parents walking the tightrope between work and caring for children, online purchases of toys are growing. Toys, sporting goods and camping products increased sales by 200% from March 13-24 compared with a year earlier. Additionally, industrial supplies sales increased 150%. Meanwhile housewares, home and hardware, and automotive, boating and motorcycle sales remained flat. Plus, as more consumers work from home and swap their work pants with sweatpants, online apparel sales fell 15%. Listrak only provided an analysis of online sales in those four categories.

Another analysis by digital commerce intelligence company Edison Trends also shows that at least some online apparel retailers are taking a hit. The company analyzed sales at four apparel e-retailers: Third Love (No. 430 in the 2019 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000), Stich Fix Inc. (No. 64), Poshmark Inc. and Untuckit (No. 349). Looking at these brands as a whole, the average week-over-week increase in sales between January 6 and March 1 was 1%. However, sales fell by 7% on average each week from March 2 to March 22 as the virus spread more rapidly.

Spending on Third Love products fell 22% the week of March 9 compared with the previous week, and 39% the week of March 16. Stitch Fix and Poshmark also experienced sales drops. On the other hand, Untuckit grew sales 39% and 20% each of those weeks, Edison says.

Edison Trends analyzed more than 35,000 online transactions from Jan. 6-March 22. The firm’s data is based on e-receipts of online transactions accessed through the email of U.S. consumers.

Other research released by digital marketing agency Within also finds that fashion is taking a hit with the coronavirus. The agency is tracking year-over-year trends in ecommerce revenue, ad spend and conversion rates relative to the pre-COVID-19 benchmark period using data from a sampling of its clients.

Here are its notable findings for March 24 from that data: 


Fashion ecommerce: Revenue for its fashion ecommerce brands fell 51% year over year on March 24 and conversion rates fell 28%. Ad spend on Google was down 55% year over year for the category.

Web-only retailers: Revenue is down 54% year over year for Within’s web only e-retailers. Conversion rates also fell 43%.

Omnichannel retailers: Retailers that sell in stores and the web posted a 31% decline overall in web revenue on March 24 compared with  a year earlier. However, this set of retailers has been investing in more Facebook ads recently with spending on the social network up an average of 28% March 22-24 compared with just 5% the three days prior.

Essentials retailers: As stuck-at-home shoppers stock up on products they need for everyday living, such as paper goods and toiletries, revenue increased 124% year over year on March 24 for essentials retailers. The category’s conversion rate is up 53% year over year. Google ad spending is up 323% and Facebook spend increased 86%.


Luxury retailers: Online sales of luxury goods were down 25% year over year on March 24. However, conversion rates increased 31%.

The research is based on Within’s U.S. ecommerce data. The firm says it manages over $500 million in media spend for online retailers. Its clients’ online sales total more than $5 billion in ecommerce revenue. For the analysis, Within placed clients into their respective verticals, and some clients appear in more than one vertical. For example, omnichannel fashion brands are grouped into both the omnichannel and fashion sectors. The data illustrates how sectors are performing now versus their pre-COVID-19 benchmark periods. So, if the sector was up 10% year over year before COVID-19, and the sector is now down 15%, Within would report that sector as down 25% versus the benchmark period.

Within clients attract an average of 100,000 daily visitors to their ecommerce sites, 1,900 daily transactions and generate $350 in online sales each day.