Consumers spent $791.70 billion online with U.S. retailers in 2020, up 32.4% from $598.02 billion the prior year, according to a Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce data. Online spending represented 19.6% of total retail sales last year, compared with 15.8% in 2019.
Changing consumer spending habits as a result of the coronavirus pandemic contributed to the spike in ecommerce sales last year, as statewide lockdowns and fear of contracting the virus kept consumers out of physical stores. COVID-19-related boosts in online shopping resulted in an additional $105.47 billion in ecommerce revenue in 2020, Digital Commerce 360 estimates. If it weren’t for the bump in online sales from the pandemic, the $791.70 billion in ecommerce sales wouldn’t have been reached until 2022.
Digital Commerce 360 updated the ecommerce sales figures for 2020 in February 2021 after publishing projections earlier in the year.
Bankrupt retailers amid coronavirus pandemic
21 North American retailers filed for bankruptcy protection thus far in 2020. 17 of those retailers filed during the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Lockdowns and store closures have drained revenue, pushing already-struggling companies like J.C. Penney Co. Inc., J. Crew Group Inc. and Neiman Marcus Group Inc. into bankruptcy.
Most recently, discount retailer Stein Mart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection mid-August and will close all of its 279 stores in the U.S. Stein Mart may sell its ecommerce operations and related intellectual property amid its liquidation process, the company said. Stein Mart is No. 478 in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000.
The oldest U.S. department store Lord & Taylor filed for Chapter 11 protection in early August. Lord & Taylor’s owner, web-only apparel retailer Le Tote Inc., filed with the retail chain. Le Tote (No. 835) bought the rights to the company’s stores, brand and ecommerce site from Fifth Avenue owner Hudson’s Bay Co. for $71 million last year.
Tailored Brands Inc. (No. 150), the owner of Men’s Wearhouse and Jos. A. Bank, filed for bankruptcy protection in early August as well, after the coronavirus lockdown kept America’s office workers at home, putting a damper on demand for new suits.
Statewide lockdowns, store closures and the fear of contracting the coronavirus have kept consumers from shopping in stores. As a result, many retailers launched curbside pickup as a way to get products to consumers safely. While this omnichannel trend has been on the rise for the past couple years, many store retailers launched curbside amid the pandemic.
As of August 2020, 43.7% of the 245 retailers with stores ranked in the Digital Commerce 360 Top 500 offer curbside pickup, a sharp increase from 6.9% at the end of 2019.
Most recently, BJ’s Wholesale Club (No. 333) announced on Aug. 21 the launch of contactless curbside pickup at all of the retailer’s locations.
What’s more, large retailers that offered curbside pickup prior to the pandemic touted growth in consumers using the feature in Q2. Target Corp. (No. 12) said web orders fulfilled through curbside pickup grew 734% in its fiscal Q2 ended Aug. 1. Similarly, The Home Depot Inc. (No. 5) had triple-digit growth in curbside delivery during its Q2 ended Aug. 2.
Amazon’s traffic during COVID-19
Amazon.com Inc., the largest North American online retailer, continues to see increased traffic to its site even nearly a year after the COVID-19 pandemic began in the U.S. In January, total visits to Amazon was up 20% compared with January 2020 and up 37% compared with February 2020, according to Digital Commerce 360’s analysis of traffic data from web measurement firm SimilarWeb.
We compared monthly traffic to the same month the previous year as well as to February 2020. This allows us to compare shopper behavior right before the pandemic hit the U.S.
The biggest year-over-year gain in traffic was in October, when total visits to Amazon jumped 27% compared with October 2019. That shift is due to Amazon’s annual Prime Day sales event that was held in October last year, months after its typical July time slot.
In July, comparatively, site traffic was up 28.1% compared with February 2020 and up 8.7% year over year. It’s notable that traffic was up year over year despite Amazon postponing Prime Day, which was held in July 2019.
Amazon’s traffic shot up during the holidays compared with February 2020, up 45% in November and 54% in December, respectively.
Looking at Amazon’s traffic growth month over month, June total site visits were down 5.4% compared with May—the first month since February 2020 that declined. July bounced back up 8.7% compared with June traffic. Visits to Amazon.com gained momentum in October through the end of the year. In January, visits were down 11% from peak holiday traffic in December.
U.S. marketplace sellers sold 3.4 billion products in the last 12 months ended May 31—a time period that includes the start and height of the coronavirus pandemic. Over the same period, Amazon’s marketplace sellers averaged $160,000 in annual sales, compared with $100,000 in the same period a year prior, Amazon reported in its annual Small Business Impact report.
Since mid-March, marketplace sellers hit “record sales,” Amazon reports. While the company didn’t specify U.S. sales figures, it did say marketplace products account for more than 50% of all units sold on Amazon, and marketplace sales continue to outpace first-party sales. (First-party items are inventory owned by Amazon, including its private-label goods and products Amazon purchased from retailers and brands.)
Jessica Young and Brendan Reilly contributed to this report.
Stay on top of the latest developments in the ecommerce industry by signing up for a complimentary subscription to our email newsletter, Digital Commerce 360 Retail News.
For more data and insights on how the coronavirus has impacted large retail, purchase the latest editions of Digital Commerce 360’s Online Apparel, Online Marketplaces and Online Food reports. DC360 Gold and Platinum members get immediate access to all three reports as part of their membership. Reports can be purchased individually for $399. View all Digital Commerce 360 reports available for purchase here.