Though retail sales in general were hit hard by the pandemic, the share of online sales has grown significantly across markets worldwide, emphasizing the accelerated shift towards e-commerce. According to a June eMarketer report, the global e-commerce retail market is expected to grow by 16.5 percent this year. But as shoppers get even more comfortable buying online, they’re also warming up to buying from merchants in faraway places.
Global apparel and footwear e-commerce sales made through the eShopWorld cross-border commerce platform rose by 121 percent and 122 percent year over year, respectively, from June 1 through June 15. The apparel sector improved even more from May, when cross-border revenues shot up 99 percent, while footwear slightly declined from its 126 percent growth.
The June numbers beat out overall cross-border e-commerce sales growth across all sellers on eShopWorld, which saw an average uptick of 106 percent from June 1 to 15. Cross-border sales across the platform jumped 113 percent in May.
According to study from cross-border e-commerce specialist Global-e, which analyzed data from over 300 retail customers that sell to more than 185 countries, the volume of cross-border e-commerce purchases in the U.S. has remained stable overall when comparing year-over-year sales from the start of January to the end of May, to the same period in 2019. A 42 percent increase in year-over-year sales in May, following the decrease in new COVID-19 cases that signaled recovery from the pandemic as of mid-May, brings the U.S. cross-border e-commerce growth to 10.2 percent year-over-year from Jan. 1 to June 14.
The 42 percent cross-border sales jump dwarfs the 7 percent cross-border revenue increase seen in the U.S. in April.
U.S. brands using eShopWorld to sell cross-border saw their highest volume growth during May in Malaysia (up 359 percent), Singapore (up 284 percent), Chile (up 237 percent), the Russian Federation (up 174 percent) and New Zealand (up 168 percent).
Additionally, the top five markets for the June 1-15 period were Chile (up 379 percent), Mexico (up 204 percent), the Russian Federation (up 159 percent), Turkey (up 132 percent) and South Africa (up 130 percent).
“Our data shows that brands that have been able to pivot away from physical stores and double down on digital channels to find significant growth amid the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Tommy Kelly, CEO of eShopWorld. “In June so far, cross-border apparel and footwear sales have seen significant growth, and our May overall sales volumes were above those seen during the peak pre-holiday Black Friday period. We expect this strong growth to continue as consumers around the world keep shopping from home due to concerns about the ongoing pandemic.”
On a global level, the Global-e survey saw similar trends across all markets, with digital sales rebounding and even exceeding pre-pandemic figures within six to eight weeks from initial lockdowns. After a slight year-over-year downturn in discretionary e-commerce in response to the outbreak of the pandemic, lockdown measures and the associated uncertainty, markets have rebounded with year-over-year increases in sales across all regions in the second half of April and into May and June.
In Western Europe, the pandemic depressed cross-border online sales to an 11 percent year-over-year decline in March, but sales made a big rebound in April and May, with 23 percent and 30 percent growth, respectively, year over year. The increase in e-commerce sales volume in April and May brings the region to a 9.5 percent growth from Jan. 1 to June 14, compared to the same period in 2019.
The trend of cross-border online shopping growth is strongest in the largely untapped Gulf markets, and Global-e data shows that the pandemic has not slowed down demand in this region at all. The associated peak in sales in the lead up to Ramadan came in April, earlier than last year, with cross-border sales skyrocketing a stunning 575 percent. Trading continued to boom into May across the region, with sales figures jumping out 236 percent ahead of May 2019, which was the peak of the holiday season that year. Overall, cross-border e-commerce across the Gulf markets continues to show consistent growth, with an impressive increase of 214 percent from Jan. 1 to June 14.
In May, Global-e tracked positive growth in discretionary cross-border e-commerce across all markets, with sales increasing by 25 percent to 45 percent year over year. This positive trend has continued into June, with markets keeping the same year-over-year growth rates, emphasizing the rebound of discretionary e-commerce as physical retail continues to struggle.
Luxury market sees rebound after rough February and March
The Global-e report cited McKinsey data to explain how the luxury goods market has been significantly impacted by the pandemic, noting that 20 percent to 30 percent of physical luxury sales are generated by shoppers outside of their home country. The halt in tourism from Asia and global store shutdowns have had disastrous effects on the sales of European and American luxury brands. Accordingly, Euromonitor International forecasts that the global luxury goods market will decrease by 18 percent this year.
Global-e saw a temporary decrease in luxury e-commerce retail from the second half of February (4 percent cross-border sales declines) and into March (18 percent) in response to the pandemic. However, once consumers began to regain confidence business picked up again, reaching 39 percent year-over-year increases in sales in April and May with the trend continuing into June. Growth was driven by the high demand for luxury apparel and accessories across all regions. Overall, year-over-year luxury e-commerce sales between Jan. 1 and June 14 rose by 17.5 percent across all markets.