Coronavirus Compels More Americans to Do Their Grocery Shopping Online

The hashtag #SocialDistancing began trending on Twitter last week as more companies directed employees to work from home, sports leagues postponed or cancelled games, and schools cancelled classes. Images of empty supermarket shelves are staples of the media’s 24/7 coronavirus coverage. But it appears Americans started shopping online to avoid crowds and stock their kitchen pantries weeks before the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on March 11th. 

That is one of the key findings of 7Park Data’s monthly Macro E-Commerce report, which leverages email receipt data to analyze growth trends for Online Retail (sales of physical products) and Online Services (sales of digital services and subscriptions). 

The February 2020 report reveals that Amazon and the Grocery category were the two largest contributors to a +21.3% Y/Y spike in overall online retail sales compared to January’s low-double-digit reading. 

The Online Grocery sector grew +37.8% vs. Feb. 2019 (+28.7% in January vs. Jan. 2019), boosting an already-surging category: grocery sales growth has accelerated for the past four months, and is online retail’s fastest growing segment.

Amazon’s sales surged +28.4% Y/Y in February (+20.1% in January). All other categories grew sales sub-double-digits:

  • Hardline sales grew +3.2% in February vs. +1.2% in January.
  • Softline sales accelerated to +5.4% growth in February vs. +3.3% in January
  • Mass Merchants (the only category to show negative growth in 2019) improved to +6.3% in February from +2.7% in January.

Amazon’s share of total Online Retail sales increased to 41.1% in February 2020, up from 37.5% in February 2019 and flat from January 2019. 

But like companies across virtually every industry worldwide, Amazon is preparing for the coronavirus epidemic to have a negative impact on its business. 

In a March 13th post to its blog, Amazon warns that it is experiencing delivery delays and stock shortages:

“As COVID-19 has spread, we’ve recently seen an increase in people shopping online. In the short term, this is having an impact on how we serve our customers. In particular, you will notice that we are currently out of stock on some popular brands and items, especially in household staples categories. You will also notice that some of our delivery promises are longer than usual. We are working around the clock with our selling partners to ensure availability on all of our products, and bring on additional capacity to deliver all of your orders.”

The March edition of the 7Park Macro E-Commerce report will provide detailed answers to the question “How is the coronavirus affecting the online retail sector?” To learn more about our Macro E-Commerce reports, and other reports covering Consumer, Technology, Industrials, Healthcare, and other sectors, please contact us. 

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