Corona – winners and losers in eCommerce

Jewelry online sales have declined by more than 50% compared to last year’s March sales

Businesses worldwide have been shaken by the economic impact of COVID-19 and its accompanying government restrictions. In most countries, brick-and-mortar stores that sell anything beyond the most essential are closed by order and many newly discovered the benefits of online trade and built up last-minute online presences to save at least parts of their business. The idea that eCommerce in general might be the biggest winner of the corona crisis, however, has turned out to be an illusion to many. Just like in stationary retail, demand has gone down in eCommerce as well. Basic and essential products, like groceries, medication, personal care products or household cleaners, have indeed been bought more in the past few weeks, though. And the run on toilet paper and canned food has also manifested in online retail – at least this is what a study conducted among German online shoppers has just confirmed.

According to the bevh – the German association for eCommerce and the mail-order business – German eCommerce as a whole has been hit by a slump in sales of almost 20% in March 2020, compared to March last year. And this after a year-on-year sales growth of almost 9% in January and February. Some categories had even grown by more than 10% year-on-year in the first two months of 2020. And then corona hit hard. Only product categories that cover basic needs have recorded a growth in sales – some of them very significantly.

corona winners in ecommerce
When comparing eCommerce sales of March 2020 and March 2019 in different product categories, the biggest winner turn out to be drugs. Online medication sales have increased by 88.2%. Second in line is groceries. The category recorded a plus of 55.8% year-on-year. Personal care products have also benefitted to a great extent, with an increase in online sales of 29.2%. The biggest loser is jewelry. The category reached not even half the sales of March 2019. It is, though, also one of the smallest eCommerce categories with overall Q1 sales of US$252 million.

corona losers in ecommerce
Clothing, hobby supplies, and shoes have also recorded substantial losses of 35.4%, 32.5%, and 31.1%, respectively. The biggest categories after clothing – electronics & telecommunication and computer, games & software downloads generated Q1 2020 sales of US$2.8 million and US$1.4 million, respectively – also recorded year-on-year losses of more than 20% in March. In other words: The smallest are the biggest winners.

The same trend seems to manifest also in the U.S. A recent Stackline infographic suggests that online sales of everyday products have also gone up during the corona crisis. But not only this – weight training equipment has seen an increase in sales of an incredible 307%, while golf clubs have slumped by 33%. A peculiar illustration of how sports trends change in times of quarantine.


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April 2020