The coronavirus pandemic’s widespread impact in the U.S. in mid-March has disrupted retail—and ecommerce in particular. Some retail categories, like online grocery and food, flourished with shelter-at-home restrictions, while categories like apparel suffered. These charts show the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak on ecommerce, from bankruptcies to traffic on Amazon.com, thus far in 2020.

Ecommerce sales

In the first quarter ended March 31, consumers spent $146.47 billion online with U.S. retailers, up 14.5% from $127.89 billion for the same period the prior year, according to the latest U.S. Department of Commerce data. This period only captures roughly two weeks of the full effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on U.S. retail. Q2 will likely show a bigger growth in ecommerce.

Online spending represented 16.2% of total retail sales for the quarter, according to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis. That was up from 15.0% for the same period in 2019 and marks the second-highest online share for any quarter in history, after 17.8% in Q4 2019.

 

U.S. daily ecommerce sales grew 49% April 1-23 compared with March 1-11—before the pandemic gained widespread attention, Adobe Analytics reports.

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Adobe Analytics data is based on online sales data from trillions of anonymous visits to retail sites and tens of millions of product SKUs from 80 of the top 100 retailers in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000. Data is based on 18 product categories including apparel, electronics, home, grocery, appliance, personal care, office supplies, books, jewelry, furniture and toys, among others.

Bankrupt retailers

11 retailers have filed for bankruptcy protection thus far in 2020. Six of those retailers—apparel merchants Neiman Marcus Group Inc., J. Crew Group Inc., J. Hilburn, Stage Stores Inc., True Religion and most recently J.C. Penney Co.—filed during the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S.

Most recently, J.C. Penney filed for bankruptcy on May 15  due to losses as a result of temporary store closures during the pandemic. In its filing, the company said it will permanently close 192 stores in 2020 (not including the six it closed in February). J.C. Penny is No. 32 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.

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Similarly, luxury retail chain Neiman Marcus (No. 41) filed for bankruptcy protection on May 7 citing “inexorable pressure on the business” from the pandemic’s impact on store closures. Like most retailers, J.C. Penney and Neiman Marcus closed its stores beginning mid-March.

This is the second time in three years that designer denim brand True Religion filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, most recently on April 13. In a court filing, True Religion said it would have preferred to wait out the current period of statewide lockdowns and financial market instability, but “simply could not afford to do so.” True Religion is ranked No. 898 in the just-released 2020 Top 1000, filed for bankruptcy in 2017.

Online grocery

Online grocery sales reached $5.30 billion in April, beating a record of $4.00 billion in March, according to survey data from grocery consultant Brick Meets Click (BMC) and research firm Symphony RetailAI. The number of grocery orders increased 33.3% to 62.5 million in April from 46.9 million in March. The average order size grew modestly to $85 in April, up from $82 in March, the survey found.

What online retailers are saying

55% of retailers surveyed by Digital Commerce 360 during the week ending April 2 say they’ve seen a decline in ecommerce sales because of the pandemic. 11% of the 107 retailers surveyed say sales were as projected and 34% say online sales have increased.

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Roughly half of retailers also said website traffic has trended down, conversion rate has dropped and average order value of online purchases have been down during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Amazon traffic during peak periods

Between March 1 and April 30, total daily visits on Amazon.com were up 17.1%, or 8.46 million visits, to 83.96 million visits, according to traffic data source SimilarWeb Inc. During the same period in 2019, traffic remained steady at 69 million.

This elevated traffic is still a lower number of visits compared with other peak periods where there’s increased demand, such as the holidays. Data shows that Amazon’s traffic during its peak periods of Prime Day and the 5-day period starting Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday is still much higher.

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During Prime Day 2019—its annual 2-day global sales event, which spanned July 15–16 in 2019—total visits were 119.60 million and 104.93 million, respectively. During the Cyber 5, total daily visits on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were 102.52 million, 124.82 million and 120.98 million, respectively. SimilarWeb’s data only includes site traffic and does not include app shopping. It’s possible more consumers are shopping through Amazon’s mobile app, and that traffic would not be captured in this data.

Online apparel sales

Online apparel sales have taken a hit during the pandemic, with shelter-at-home restrictions causing many consumers to pause purchases of new outfits outside of loungewear. Online apparel sales have been down each week compared with the year-ago week from March 9 until the week of April 13, according to data from Rakuten Intelligence. But data shows online apparel sales are climbing back up, with sales during the last three weeks of April showing growth after five straight weeks of declines.

The data is based on email receipts of online U.S. apparel sales from about 200 merchants, excluding Amazon, Jan. 6-April 21, 2019, and Jan. 6-May 3, 2020.

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73% of the 124 apparel retailers ranked in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 were offering a sale online, according to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis on April 9.

 

 

April Berthene, Katie Evans, Jessica Young, James Melton, Stephanie Crets and Tabitha Cassidy contributed to this story.

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