Online prices increased 3.1% year over year in August 2021, marking the 15th consecutive month in which online prices have increased compared with the previous year, according to new data from Adobe Inc.’s Adobe Digital Economy Index.
This is a marked shift from previous years, according to Adobe. From 2015-2019, online prices decreased 3.9% on average each year.
Of the 18 categories Adobe tracks, online prices in the apparel and nonprescribed drugs categories increased the most in August.
The apparel category’s online price increase is most notable, at a 15.5% year-over-year increase in August and a 15.3% year-over-year increase in July. Typically, during this time of year, online apparel retailers are cutting prices for the back-to-school season and marking down summer items, according to Adobe.
“In addition to notable categories such as apparel and home furnishings, consumers continue to see prices rise online for everyday goods such as groceries, pet products, and personal care,” says Vivek Pandya, lead analyst, Adobe Digital Insights.
Compared with July, online prices in August increased 0.1% month over month. The Adobe Digital Economy analyzes 100 million product SKUs from 18 categories on U.S. retail sites.
Why online prices are increasing
Adobe attributes the increase in online prices to supply chain disruptions and increased online shopping. Supply chain disruptions have caused increases in raw materials to manufactured goods and increases to transport goods. In turn, several retailers have increased these prices to maintain their typical margin on goods or have not discounted their products as much.
Pool Supplies Canada Inc., for example, says on average, it has increased its prices by 10%, says Dion Rodrigues, marketing director at the retailer, which is No. 1623 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Next 1000. The merchant is covering its cost because the materials some of its suppliers use—such as resin, vinyl and chlorine—are facing shortages, backlogs at shipping ports and price hikes.
Another example is apparel retailer American Eagle Outfitters Inc. (No. 52 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000). It reported for its fiscal Q2 2021 ended July 31 a gross margin of 42.1%, up from 30% in the second quarter of 2020. The retail chain attributes the increase, in part, to less discounting and strong consumer demand.
Indeed, Adobe says retailers can increase prices because of the continued increase in consumer demand for online goods. Consumers have spent $541 billion from January-August 2021, which is 9% higher than the comparable period in 2020 and 58% higher than in 2019.
“Considering that many were unable to leave their homes in 2020, the year-over-year growth highlights the staying power of habits formed during the pandemic,” Adobe says.
A Digital Commerce 360 analysis of U.S. Department of Commerce figures finds that online sales continue to increase even when benchmarked against peak spending periods in 2020.
Some consumers, however, may change their buying habits because of the increased prices. A new survey of 1,000 consumers from market research firm Suzy Inc. finds that 45% of consumers are changing their buying habits due to inflation and 50% of consumers think inflation will impact their holiday spending. Suzy conducted the survey Sept. 9, 2021.