Coronavirus causes online sales surge: What stay-at-home shoppers are, and aren’t, buying

From food delivery to self-care products, stay-at-home shoppers have embraced online retail.

From food delivery to self-care products, stay-at-home shoppers have embraced online retail. Photo: Getty

The coronavirus pandemic has led to a surge in online shopping as Australians obey lockdown orders and stay at home, and the products and services we’re spending money on is changing.

Shutdown-affected categories including gyms, public transport, travel and cafes have seen heavy falls in consumer spending, data from AlphaBeta economists and credit advisory bureau Illion shows.

By contrast, some retailers have experienced a surge in demand, with consumers spending more money on online retail and subscription services, food delivery and pet care.

Source: AlphaBeta and Illion, April 6-13

Supermarkets are also cashing in, and after a spate of panic-buying of essential products and long-life ingredients, shoppers are turning to healthy foods.

Spending on fresh produce reached a two-year high in the month ending March 22, Nielsen analysis shows, up 5.1 per cent in volume year on-year.

Source: Nielsen Homescan

This is despite consumers copping higher prices on some fruits and vegetables as the effects of drought and bushfires on the supply chain continue to be felt.

Total spending per person was 18 per cent below normal levels for the week of April 6-13, AlphaBeta and Illion found, despite government stimulus measures having “arrested the decline in discretionary spending”.

Source: AlphaBeta and Illion, April 6-13

Spending on essentials has see-sawed,’’ the firms said.

“It peaked in the first week of the crisis (up 9 per cent) as people stocked up on groceries, office supplies and hardware; but since moderated”.

Year on year, retail spending in Australia has dipped to -8 per cent as of April 17, ANZ researchers found.

But brace for worse. This is just the start of the spending decline,’’ they warned.

Easter online shopping spree

The Easter long weekend netted a massive spike in online sales for beleaguered department store Myer.

Overall online sales shot up 800 per cent over the long weekend, Myer chief customer officer Geoff Ikin said.

Stay-at-home shoppers opted overwhelmingly for self-care, home and entertainment products.

Sales of beauty products skyrocketed 7000 per cent on April 11, with shoppers stocking up on discounted beauty products, skincare and fragrances.

Orders of “intimate apparel”, including sleepwear, lingerie, activewear and underwear, were up by 600 per cent, while menswear sales were up 160 per cent, and kids clothes 140 per cent.

Shoppers were also seeking diversion during the coronavirus lockdown, with sales of home and entertainment products rising 300 per cent.

At the end of March, Myer announced that it would temporarily close its department stores, and stand down 10,000 staff without pay, for at least a month.

The surge in online shopping has helped Myer bring back 2000 staff to help deal with booming demand for online offerings.

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