It’s no shock that amid the ongoing pandemic, retailers are seeing e-commerce sales surge. But even so, the numbers are eye-popping.
Walmart reported blowout Q2 earnings on Tuesday, led by a 97% surge in online sales. That comes after Walmart’s online sales rose 74% in Q1. The chain, which was criticized years ago for being too slow to beef up its online presence, has been on an e-commerce hot streak since before the pandemic and is now a formidable online sales foe to Amazon, which saw its net sales rise 40% in Q2.
The stay-at-home era has served as a tide to lift many e-commerce boats: in the first quarter Target saw its online sales spike 141%, and said that in April alone, online sales were up an astonishing 282%. Target reports second-quarter earnings on Wednesday and is likely to disclose similar massive e-commerce gains.
Even Etsy (ETSY), which due to its size is rarely compared to giants like Amazon (AMZN), Walmart (WMT), and Target (TGT), saw its Q2 sales (which are entirely online) rise 137%, driven by mask purchasing, which comprised 14% of all sales in the quarter.
Overall, U. S. e-commerce grew 44. 5% in Q2, the biggest quarterly growth in more than 20 years.
That e-commerce surge stands in brutally sharp contrast to the headlines in brick-and-mortar: bankruptcy filings galore, including Lord & Taylor, Men’s Wearhouse parent Tailored Brands, Ann Taylor and Lane Bryant parent Ascena Retail, Lucky Brand Jeans, and The Paper Store, all in the past two months. As Americans continue to work from home and socially distance, they’re shopping online, and also beginning to make more than just essential purchases online. U. S. retail sales rose 1. 2% in July, which was less than predicted but marked the third straight month that spending rose, a good sign of economic recovery. Consumers are shopping again, but doing it mostly online.
So, this massive e-commerce surge can be largely chalked up to the pandemic.
The scarier question for traditional brick-and-mortar retailer is: What if it isn’t?
According to Department of Commerce statistics, e-commerce makes up just 16. 1% of total U. S. retail spending. But the direction of the trend is obvious. One year ago, e-commerce was 10. 8% of U. S. retail. Just a few years ago, retail chains were encouraged to have an online presence as an addition to their physical presence; then over time, the buzzword became an “omni-channel” approach; soon, if it isn’t the case already, a chain’s e-commerce platform is going to be more important than its physical footprint.
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