May 18, 2020

Chart of the Week: Digital sales avoid retail carnage

by Fathom Consulting.

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US retail sales plunged in April, dropping 16.4% on the month after recording an 8.3% decline in March. That left sales down by more than a fifth year-on-year. Within sectors, there were large falls in clothing (-78.8%) electronics (-60.6%), and furniture (-58.7%), as shops closed and customers sheltered at home. However, there was a lone bright spot within the data. Non-store retail sales actually increased, rising by 8.4% on the month, as households ordered goods online. That lifted non-store’s share of total retail sales to 20.7%, up 4.6 percentage points on the month and 7 percentage points on the year. It is hard to know how much of this shift will remain permanent. But with social distancing measures and health concerns set to remain for some time, it seems some of it will be structural, rather than cyclical. Investors seem to be betting on that anyway: Amazon’s share price has increased by 30% in 2020, outperforming by some margin an 11% decline in the S&P 500 over that period.

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