Coronavirus: impact on the retail industry worldwide - Statistics & Facts

The world is currently experiencing a pandemic due to the highly infectious virus known as the coronavirus, or COVID-19. In an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, many countries have imposed temporary closures to non-necessity stores, bars, and venues, as well as putting a ban on large public gatherings and encouraging people to work from home wherever possible. As such, the retail industry faces substantial shifts: the amount of growth in retail sales had already dropped between 2019 and 2020, even before the outbreak of the virus, which is certain to have further ramifications. Certain sectors have witnessed growth, with and considerable increases in sales of consumer goods recorded in heavily-affected countries, such as the United States, Italy, Germany, and the United Kingdom. This increase is in part because grocery stores have remained open and consumers appear to be stocking up on certain goods and supplies.

Back in March when the coronavirus pandemic hit many countries globally, it caused a surge in consumer spending in China and the United States, with a high share of consumers stockpiling food. In the United States, general merchandisers or multi-purpose outlets like Walmart and Target have gained the most, with dollars sales of consumer packaged goods increasing 10 percent relative to the year before. Consumers are increasingly worried about going to retail spaces, where they could contract the airborne virus. As such, over 47 percent of consumers have reduced their day-to-day in-store spending, and over twenty percent of respondents in the United States said that their frequency of purchasing goods online had increased during this time.

Within China, the first outbreak location of the pandemic, worries of COVID-19's negative effect on multiple sectors seem to be evident, as multiple industries, including transportation, trade, and recreation, experienced declines from pre-COVID-19 levels. Sales of consumer goods dropped across the country in the first two months of 2020 when compared to the same period of the previous year, and has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels.

As the pandemic spread, Italy became a hot-spot, with over 100,000 cases as of the first week of April. During the ensuing lockdown, E-commerce sales in Italy have seen definite increases throughout the duration of the outbreak. Large-scale retail centers, such as supermarkets and discounters, also experienced growth in sales, especially in Northern Italy, the region with the highest density of Coronavirus cases. Placenza, Cremona, and Pavia saw the highest increase in sales in that region.

Though the number of reported cases in Germany has dropped compared to a week ago, it is too soon to tell if the measures taken have successfully flattened the curve. Germany followed many of the precautions that Italy implemented, including shutting down, public spaces, sporting events, bars, and restaurants. These recommendations and official guidelines will impact the retail sector as well as almost all industries. However, it will take some time for these figures to become available so that the true extent can be seen. For example, footfall across popular shopping streets across the country decreased dramatically.

As coronavirus cases and even deaths increased in the United Kingdom, shopping patterns were slow to change. However, well-traveled shopping locations have all become less frequented, especially high-street. It's expected that clothing and footwear sales will drop substantially, and the retail sector in total will decrease due to the coronavirus.

The majority of consumers are changing their behavior, staying at home more, washing their hands frequently, and practicing social distancing. As such, most of the products being purchased at higher rates are related to these activities: hygiene and cleaning products, food, and home entertainment sales top the retail list. In contrast, consumers are spending less on activities such as going out, traveling, or hobbies. It is yet to be seen what the full effect of the COVID-19 outbreak on the worldwide retail industry will be, but one has to assume it's impact will be significant.

For further information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, please visit our dedicated Facts and Figures page.

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