May Retail, Food Sales Up a Record 17.7%; Ecommerce Jumps 30%

Multichannel Merchant – 06/18/20

Retail and food sales jumped a record 17.7% in May compared to April, according to figures from the U.S. Census Bureau, a hopeful sign of a recovery from the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, after tanking an adjusted 16.4% in the March-to-April period.

Martin Whitmore, a managing partner with Cambridge Retail Advisors, said pent-up demand was a primary reason for the May spike, combined with significant discounting to clear out backlogged inventory. “It (pent-up demand) may not be a true barometer of the retail climate,” Whitmore said. “We believe that shoppers are going to be more demanding as they adjust to in-store shopping.”

As for the large growth in apparel sales, Whitmore said it was largely a function of stores reacting to try and clear out-of-season inventory and didn’t represent “real profitable sales.” He said the “slow resurgence of in-store sales” will erode “some but not all” of the staggering ecommerce gains that have been seen since shutdowns began in March. “We do believe curbside pickup and BOPIS are here to stay and will continue to grow,” he said.

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