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Groceries and sporting goods were big winners in the 2020 Covid e-commerce boom

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A United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) driver is delivering boxes in New York, United States, on Tuesday, October 13, 2020.

Bloomberg | Bloomberg | Getty Images

US e-commerce sales increased more than 30% in 2020 compared to 2019. That came out from quarterly numbers released by the U.S. Department of Commerce on Friday as the coronavirus pandemic and statewide lockdowns caused shoppers to rely on internet retailers for their consumer needs.

Americans spent $ 791.7 billion online last year, up 32.4% from 2019. Total retail sales increased 3.4% year over year in 2020. This behavior resulted in e-commerce accounting for a larger share of total retail sales than before. E-commerce accounted for 14% of all US sales at year-end, down from 11% in 2019.

While consumers were shopping online before the pandemic, they had to rely even more heavily on digital retailers during the Covid-19 pandemic, as many physical stores were closed and people chose to stay indoors as much as possible to view the Slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Consumers filled their virtual shopping carts with products they might not otherwise have ordered online, especially groceries, according to a table published by the US Census Bureau. Online grocery and beverage purchases grew faster year-over-year between the second and fourth quarters of 2020 than any other category.

People were also looking for new hobbies and activities to keep them occupied and entertained at home. A category that includes sporting goods, musical instruments and books saw a huge boom in the second quarter of 2020 as the country was hit by pandemic lockdowns.

Other hot purchases online included home improvement equipment – furniture, garden tools, building materials, etc. – as well as personal and health items.

The move to digital commerce has benefited a number of large retailers such as Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and Home Depot. Pure e-commerce players such as Etsy, Shopify and EBay were also taken along.

It is unclear whether the rapid adoption of e-commerce will prove sustainable in the long term. As the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine accelerates and more states begin lifting restrictions on coronavirus, consumers will be able to shop in physical stores again. However, some of the behavior changes may persist after the pandemic, such as: B. Roadside pickup and use of online grocery delivery services.

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Katherine Clark