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Quarantined US Consumers Turn to E-Commerce for PJs, Groceries and Booze

Posted by: | Posted on: May 15, 2020

It shouldn’t be a surprise. US consumers, many under mandatory stay-at-home orders, bored and online, ramped up their e-commerce activity in April, allowing the medium to become the primary source of commerce for the month, according to software giant Adobe’s monthly Digital Economy Index (DEI) report

“We’ve found that this sudden e-commerce acceleration is having an impact on apparel, electronics and grocery purchases online,” John Copeland, vice president of marketing and consumer insights at Adobe, said in a statement.

The monthly report, which is derived from over a trillion points of data from anonymized and aggregated retail websites, found that buy-online, pick-up-in-store (BOPIS) orders grew 208% year over year in April, an indication that COVID-19 related fears have heavily impacted shopping patterns. 

That surge was assisted by a 4.1% growth in digital purchasing power in April, measured by how much more consumers can purchase versus when Adobe first started tracking the data in 2014.  

“Years of consistent online deflation have helped cushion the blow of increased prices emerging because of COVID-19,” Copeland said in a statement. “Aggregate digital purchasing power continued to increase in April, and we believe it is due to pronounced deflation in apparel.”

That makes sense, as many apparel retailers have been forced to shutter their stores or even close outright as COVID-19 restrictions have culled foot traffic and forced business to the web. Retailers have attempted to entice customers with discounts, as April saw a 12% drop in apparel pricing, the highest monthly drop in five years, the DEI report said. For comparison, the average monthly drop between March and April the previous five years has been 2.9%. 

And what are those consumers purchasing online at a discount? Pajamas and “comfy clothes”, according to the report. Now that people are staying home most of the day, sales for PJs jumped 143% in April, while sales of pants (really, who is even wearing them anymore?) dropped 13% and jackets were down 33%. 

Electronics, which had been on a downward pricing trajectory for the past five years, saw an uptick in pricing, which the report attributed to supply chain disruptions due to COVID-19. Electronics sales online were up 58% in April. 

Finally, the report said that online grocery shopping saw a 110% increase in April, while pricing for those items was up slightly but in line with the levels seen during the January through March period. 

Another winner in the online binge was, again unsurprisingly, booze. E-commerce purchases of wine, beer and liquor were up 74% in April. The report did not note any specific reasons for the increased demand, but anyone who is homeschooling their children while working full time can testify to the product qualifying as an “essential service”.

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