Economists' Outlook

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Instant Reaction: Quarterly E-Commerce, November 19, 2020

Seasonally adjusted estimates of the U.S. retail e-commerce sales for Q3 2020 decreased from the Q2 2020 estimate of $211.5 billion to $209.5 billion, which is a decline of 1%. While U.S. retail e-commerce sales slightly decreased, total retail sales for Q3 2020 increased by 12% from the $1,310.9 billion Q2 2020 figure to $1,468.9 billion. Q3 2020 e-commerce estimates increased 36.7% year-over-year while total retail sales increased 7% over the same time. E-commerce sales in Q3 2020 accounted for 14.3% of total sales, a slight decrease of 1.8% from Q2 2020's historic 16.1% percent of total sales.

While total sales increased and the percentage of e-commerce to total sales marginally decreased from Q2 2020, as discussed in previous NAR reports and blogs, it appears as though this change in consumer spending habit will continue to persist as retailer’s adaptation of emerging digital enhancements proves to be a successful formula. Retailers such as Walmart and Target both beat Q3 earnings expectations as consumers continue to shop online and as a result both saw Q3 2020 e-commerce sales significantly increase, Walmart by 79% and Target 155% (YoY) due to investments in curbside pickup and same-day delivery options.

As the holiday shopping season approaches, many retailers have already started holiday sales early because of the coronavirus pandemic and have spread out their deals over time as this holiday season is noticeably different from that of prior years. Having no coronavirus vaccine available at the moment coupled with consumers’ confidence in fully returning to in-store shopping, consumers are likely to continue shopping online throughout the holiday season.

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