US e-commerce sales growth projected to continue in 2021: report


Dive Brief

  • Consumer purchasing habits from 2020 could continue to linger in 2021. A new report from eMarketer projects that retail e-commerce sales in the U.S. will increase by 13.7% to $908.73 billion — lower than last year’s 18% to $709.78 billion surge, but still exceeds pre-pandemic estimates of 12.8%.
  • The report predicts that apparel and accessories e-commerce sales will grow by 18.9% once the coronavirus pandemic subsides, followed by food and beverage (18.1%) and healthcare, beauty and personal care (16.1%).
  • Per eMarketer’s projections, the top two categories that will generate the most e-commerce sales in 2021 will be books, music or video (69.1%) and computer and consumer electronics (53.2%). But toys and hobbies will take the next top spot in 2022.

Dive Insight

As more consumers get vaccinated and large gatherings return, some categories affected by the pandemic are beginning to show signs of life.

While eMarketer anticipates that clothing and accessories will see an uptick in sales once the pandemic ends, retail sales tracked by the U.S. Department of Commerce showed a 105% spike in clothing and accessory sales from March 2020 when much of the sector was forced to shut down or significantly scale back in-store operations. Plus, sporting goods, hobby and bookstore sales also jumped by 78% from last year, and electronics and appliances increased by 29%, per the Department of Commerce data.

Though the coronavirus pandemic has been challenging for apparel retailers as consumers who stay mostly at home find less reason to shop for clothes, eMarketer’s research echoes the findings of other analysts who predict that fashion retailers are poised to make a comeback this year. Analysts from the NPD Group and Deloitte expect to see strong demand for the fashion as the country eases into its new normal.

The work-from-home life might still impact consumer spending. As many offices still sit empty with no concrete plans to reopen, the computer and consumer electronics category is still expected to be take up a portion of consumers’ discretionary spending in 2021.

Now that the coronavirus pandemic has shifted more consumer spending online,  Amazon has done particularly well during the crisis. Per eMarketer’s findings, Amazon generates more than a fourth of online sales in the U.S. for every category besides auto and parts. Most of the e-commerce sales for books, video and music as well as computers and consumer electronics are transacted through the e-commerce titan, eMarketer said.

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