Pandemic Impacts On Retail Likely Long Term

COVID-19 and the urban exodus have had significant impacts on consumer spending and retail sales and these trends, although they may slow down some, will likely continue once the pandemic is behind us, says Armin Begic, executive director, Canada retail, at the NPD Group, Inc. Speaking at the Retail Council of Canada’s ‘State of Retail, Powered by The NPD Group,’ he said eCommerce sales accounted for 21 per cent of buying visits in 2020, a 42 per cent increase over 2019. Prior to the pandemic, eCommerce accounted for 12 per cent of buying visits and, by May when the lockdowns were occurring, they accounted for 25 per cent. They did decrease once the lockdowns were over, but nowhere near where they were prior. Begic says the increase has put us three years ahead of where we would have been and anticipates the trend will remain a good four to six points above where it was pre-pandemic. Interestingly, 40 per cent of consumers that buy online would prefer to pick up their purchases at the store, which is good news for retailers, as this offsets the high costs of last mile delivery. Another interesting fact is that during this rapid increase in online shopping, Amazon’s retail share in Canada decreased from 43 per cent to 41 per cent. As for where they shop geographically, consumers are spending more (three times more) in areas outside of the major cities, a reflection of the urban exodus that has resulted from changing priorities as people spend more time at home.