Ecommerce Sales Spike 44% in Q2: Even Groceries, Building Materials, Garden Supplies, and Furniture

The Pandemic Economy Massively Changed How Americans Buy Stuff.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Ecommerce retail sales jumped 44% in the second quarter 2020, compared to a year earlier,  to $201 billion, not seasonally adjusted, according to the Commerce Department today. On a seasonally adjusted basis, ecommerce sales hit $211 billion. In dollar terms, the jump of $62 billion compared to Q2 last year was the largest ever in the data going back to 2001.

This confirms what retailers have been saying for months: Nearly everything related to ecommerce was hot, and even some grocery sales, long resistant to ecommerce started shifting to ecommerce during the Pandemic Economy. Ecommerce sales in Q2, both seasonally adjusted (red) and not seasonally adjusted (navy), blew past the holiday selling season (Q4), which has never happened before:

Walmart this morning added to the flood of data about the boom when it reported that ecommerce sales at Walmart US had jumped by 97% in Q2 compared to the same quarter last year. Walmart rolls its ecommerce sales into “comparable sales,” which jumped by 9.3%. Of that increase, about 6 percentage points were due to ecommerce sales.

And consumers had switched tactics: The number of transactions in comparable sales fell by 14%, but the average ticket (the dollar amount of the purchase) jumped by 27%, as people bought less often, but spent more when they did buy.

Across the US, during the Pandemic Economy, the 44% year-over-year surge in total ecommerce sales in Q2 was the largest percentage jump in the history of the data going back to 2001. The year-over-year growth rates had stabilized at around 15% since 2012, with some variations. During the Financial Crisis, there were three quarters with year-over-year declines in ecommerce sales, as total retail sales took a huge hit. But not during the Pandemic Economy:

Total retail sales including ecommerce (blue line in chart below) in Q2 fell 3.6% from a year ago, to $1.31 trillion. But retail sales minus ecommerce (red line) plunged 9.3% to $1.1 trillion. That’s how important ecommerce has become to retail sales:

Sales are counted as ecommerce if the transaction takes place online, no matter how the merchandise gets into the house, whether through delivery or some form of self-pick-up at the store, or at a locker, or at locations such as Walgreens, UPS Stores, or the cleaners in the neighborhood that partner with a shipping company.

Best Buy was among the long list of retailers that reported blow-out ecommerce sales, which skyrocketed by 255% year-over-year in Q2 through July 18; and after it had reopened its stores, from the period between June 15 through July 18, when customers could shop at its brick-and-mortar stores, its ecommerce sales were still up 185% year-over-year.

Albertsons Companies, which owns Albertsons, Safeway, and a number of other supermarket chains, reported that in Q2 through June 20, online sales soared by 276% “as more customers shifted to online home delivery and Drive Up & Go.”

This interest by American consumers to buy groceries online is new. Americans have long been mega-resistant to buying groceries online. Safeway made a big deal out of its online store back during the dotcom bubble. This has been tried. Amazon made a huge effort to elbow into the online grocery business and ended up buying Whole Foods Market, not because it gave up on online grocery sales, but because it needed a different angle. Google in conjunction with Costco tried. And many others tried.

Some progress was made, but it was a slog. By Q4, 2019, online sales of food and beverages had risen to $3.3 billion, according to the new “experimental” data by the Census Bureau. And in Q1 2020, it ticked up to $3.5 billion. But that’s still only around 3% of total food and beverage sales.

Then came the Pandemic Economy. In Q2, online food and beverage sales more than doubled from Q1, and more than tripled year-over-year, to $7.1 billion, with the share jumping to 6% of total food and beverage sales, not seasonally adjusted (nsa):

Online sales of building materials, garden equipment and supplies – the kind of things sold by Home Depot, hardware stores, and others – have skyrocketed. This was one of those things, like groceries, that Americans had been very resistant to buying online. Then came the Pandemic, and in Q2 sales doubled year-over-year to $8.2 billion, according to the “experimental” data by the Census Bureau:

Online sales of furniture and home furnishings – Wayfair has specialized in this – jumped 62% in Q2 year-over-year:

Retail spending was supported by stimulus money and extra unemployment benefits, and by money not spent on debt payments because many loans – mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and auto loans – had entered into deferral programs; and eviction bans allowed renters to skip rent payments and spend this money on something else. Read... Fired up by Stimulus Money & Debt Deferrals, Americans Went Shopping. But Where? How Life Changed During the Pandemic

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  64 comments for “Ecommerce Sales Spike 44% in Q2: Even Groceries, Building Materials, Garden Supplies, and Furniture

  1. MiTurn says:

    My neighbor is big-time into shopping online. She gets FedEx, UPS, etc. every day. Today the UPS guy was using a Penske rental truck. Must be needing extra help and delivery vehicles.

  2. buda atum says:

    I was going to say, “Retail spending was supported by stimulus money and extra unemployment benefits, and by money not spent on debt payments because many loans – mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and auto loans – had entered into deferral programs; and eviction bans allowed renters to skip rent payments and spend this money on something else. Read… Fired up by Stimulus Money & Debt Deferrals, Americans Went Shopping. But Where? How Life Changed During the Pandemic”.

    But you was there first, Wolf!

  3. 2banana says:

    Insanity.

    Stay away from it.

    Live beneath your means. Stay out of debt. Stay far away from bubbles.

    Be the weird one that the herd can’t understand.

    “Retail spending was supported by stimulus money and extra unemployment benefits, and by money not spent on debt payments because many loans – mortgages, credit cards, student loans, and auto loans – had entered into deferral programs; and eviction bans allowed renters to skip rent payments and spend this money on something else. “

    • MiTurn says:

      “Live beneath your means.”

      2B,

      Buying online helps with the ol’ budget. I fix my own cars and get great savings through online auto parts stoes, esp. Rock Auto. I often pay half what brick-and-mortar auto parts store sell for, and that includes shipping. Granted, I have to plan ahead as it can take a week to get the parts, but the savings are worth it.

      • Paulo says:

        For rural folks e-commerce is an amazing way to save money. It saves me a town run which costs me $40 with my truck, or $25 with the Yaris. In fact, even folks who live in town save by ordering online. Also, if I am already going to town I will buy what is needed using ‘pick up at store’ option. That way it wasn’t a wasted effort if the store runs out.

        Canada Post is the final delivery leg for UPS, Amazon, Fed Ex, etc. My mail lady friend drops it off at my house with a smile and chat.

        Of course we usually buy only what we need as per 2nd Banana’s comment.

        • p coyle says:

          “That way it wasn’t a wasted effort if the store runs out.”

          Considering the fact that one can no longer count on certain things being in stock, how much of this e-commerce is people not wanting to risk going into a (potentially plague-ridden) store only to find out the item is out of stock? Even if it is only a short walk around the corner vs. a $25-40 drive?

      • Xabier says:

        Similarly, I get the best bulk prices for the rare materials for my specialist craft business – gold leaf, leathers, fine and hand-made papers – online, and quite often special online sale discounts.

        This has helped me to maintain excellent margins in a time of greatly reduced orders.

        Having once been a manager of a high street supplier of the same, I also understand why they charge so much more – but as much as I would wish to show some loyalty to god-quality established shops, online purchases are vital to me.

        • endeavor says:

          Online shopping may be great for many reasons. But online ordering for critical items suck. Wait 4 days for the appliance part you need for the freezer, a new water heater or a well pump. Used to be able to buy it locally when you needed it. No more. The supply stores want to ‘manage’ inventory and carry less items. To me this equals a lower quality of life for all.

    • Trinacria says:

      What eye opening article !!!

      2banana – good to know that I am not the only counter – cultural person.

      So, we see maybe some minor pull back, but given the fact that the unemployment and debt is “out the wazzoo” as Wolf says, it is amazing that so many folks are buying so much garbage.

      Therefore, given the above and given the state of the REAL economy, I have to conclude that in this country there is serious and widespread mental illness. So many folks have and/or will get slam dunked every which way from Sunday, but they will still shop till they drop….and drop kicked hard they will be!!! Pure insanity. But keeps the landfills busy.

      Carl Jung said it best: most psychological problems are really spiritual at the base. I think a good start would be to add Prozac to the water along with the fluoride.

      Again, the challenge for simple folks like myself is how to best position myself so I don’t get tainted by all the insanity that surrounds us.

      • Trinacria says:

        To clarify, I am not talking about needed goods, especially groceries. I am talking about all the superfluous shopping that goes on, especially now when we know for sure that such a large percentage can’t make it 2 months without a paycheck. Just mind boggling!!

        • Apple says:

          We’ve always know that.

          Less than 1/2 of Americans could cover a $1,000 emergency. This was news 5 years ago.

    • MCH says:

      “Live beneath your means. Stay out of debt. Stay far away from bubbles.”

      You know, if I were young and broke, I would never take that advice. I’d go full YOLO, not pay rent, take whatever stimulus, and plow it into Robinhood and day trade.

      Leverage the heck out of credit cards, and go for forbearance.

      I think the go conservative route is the kind of thinking for people who has something to lose. (most of the people posting here) But on the flip side, those who have nothing to lose looks at this like penny from heaven. FREEDOM. What did Al Pacino say in the Devil’s Advocate… “Guilt, it’s like a load of bricks, you just gotta let it go.” Unknowingly he inspired Elsa nearly two decades later. (I know that’s not exactly what he said)

      • 2banana says:

        I used to be young and broke. Very broke.

        And, even then, there was a quiet dignity to waking up in a bed that you owned and knowing that what you see around you is paid for and no repo man is going to bother you.

        And knowing that the work you choose to do that day is not already earmarked for debt repayment.

        And not begging a government to save you from your own bad decisions.

        And with that way of living, you can personally help those even more less fortunate than yourself.

        There is much more to life besides stuff or shares in a Robinhood account.

        • MCH says:

          Yeah, I agree with everything you said.

          Unfortunately, you and I were brought up in a different time, where the media didn’t extol the virtues of things like universal basic income, debt forgiveness, rent moratorium, etc.

          Now, it’s all about how the previous generation robbed this one, and the current generation deserves to be coddled and told they are wonderful, and all of their troubles was a result of the previous generation.

          Sure, there are lots of things to be fixed in the current system that socializes capitalism where losses are distributed to taxpayers and gains are sent to the top asset owners. (Robinhood just being another manifestation of this problem) But generally, there has been an abdication of responsibility.

        • buda atum says:

          “I would rather be free than a debt slave”. Anon

    • hendrik1730 says:

      Correct. If you follow the herd, you are walking constantly through deep shit.

  4. The Bob who cried Wolf says:

    Once all the gummit cheese runs out and people are either back to work (making less than on unemployment) or totally broke this will slow down bigly. People who never had disposable income before are also going to be very resentful for having to go back to their subsistence lifestyle.

  5. Prof. Emeritus says:

    The main challenge in online grocery is not to get customers buy food without the supermarket experience (which is more of a negative experience anyway), but to keep the cold chain intact, or else the food will spoil and the food safety agencies will fine your sorry business.
    Temperature controlled delivery vans are more problematic, offer less space and some wares – such as bakery, dairy, fresh fruits, which are major tools in attracting customers – are very sensitive to heat shocks, so I wouldn’t blame this whole sluggish market development on the conservative grocery chains, it requires a really different approach compared to a conventional logistic chain with tighter quality controls.

    • VintageVNvet says:

      Exactly correct PE:
      When I was low man on the totem pole at the first small grocery store I worked at in the late 50s, the boss would pack everything to his satisfaction for me to deliver food in town, would not let me touch anything inside the box that went into my big front bike basket.
      Later, working during the day at the only ‘supermarket’ in a large SWFL county in the early 60s, one of the cashiers taught me how to use the dry ice to pack correctly ice cream and cold stuff for the farm ladies who had to drive many miles to home, I paid attention, and the big tips followed!!
      Apparently not the easiest thing in the world, as I do not see anyone these days capable of even bagging the eggs so they won’t break on the way home. Tempting to go back to work as a ”bag boy”,,, and I have seen some folks that appear to be my age doing so; most likely to dispel the boredom, but who knows these days.

  6. MonkeyBusiness says:

    Google is truly USELESS. Their data trove alone should have allowed them to create new businesses that people want, but nah, apparently they still don’t have answers to the following:
    1. What do women want?
    2. What do men want?

    Or perhaps the answers are uninteresting i.e. more money.

  7. Pete Stubben says:

    Western Civ switched models from self-sufficient forts to road-connected towns in the aftermath of their plague. Our world, too, will probably change unrecognizably and what about the U model — is it doomed and will all those wacko lefty Profs be fired/retired?… PJS

  8. Beardawg says:

    If I was a consipracy theorist………

    Let’s introduce a virus that makes it mandatory (more or less) to buy everything online…..that would be good for….Hmmmm?

    • Wolf Richter says:

      I don’t need a virus for that. I hate going into stores. It’s such a waste of time. Online retail has made my life so much easier. I no longer have to waste hours trying to buy stuff. And it seems, more and more people, even those that like shopping, are discovering the benefits of online buying.

      • roddy6667 says:

        The pandemic has introduced millions to online buying, and they will remain converts.

      • RightNYer says:

        I like going into grocery stores and hardware stores. That’s about it. The rest, I end up wasting hours looking for things and dealing with unhelpful staff. B&M retail’s last chapter is being written now.

    • MCH says:

      Stop blaming Jeff for everything. He just lost half his money last year after the divorce. He has to make it back somehow.

      • Beardawg says:

        Good point. 😉

      • roddy6667 says:

        Any of the retirement financial planning websites or “experts” warn us to plan on a number of expenses in our lifetime. There are many things that will affect our nest egg and must by compensated by larger savings. Divorce is never mentioned, although 60% of marriages end that way. Look on Youtube for “Eddie Murphy Half” for an explanation.

  9. Nathan Dumbrowski says:

    Interested to see how much of that trend continues or if the numbers crash back down. At the onset of this I was ordering packages daily to prepare for worst case. With doomsday shopping out of the way and helicopter cash about to take a serious cut I’m interested to see Q3 numbers

  10. Lee says:

    “Sales are counted as ecommerce if the transaction takes place online, no matter how the merchandise gets into the house…………”

    Well with Melbourne in lockdown and curfew the only places that are open for face to face purchase of stuff are grocery stores, gasoline stations, pharmacies, and newsagents. Fast food is open for pickup and delivery. Well post offices and banks are open too, but you can’t ‘buy’ much at those last two places.

    BUT ONLY WITHIN 5 KILOMETERS OF WHERE YOU LIVE.

    So e-commerce sales here are going to go through the roof at the next reporting time.

    I’m even going to do a click and collect from the hardware store to get stuff to finish a project this week.

    And with 25% of the country locked down and basically all mucked up the Aussie dollar touched a new 18-month peak of US72.64c overnight and was last worth US72.56c.

    Go figure.

    And there will be no increase for the national pension adjustment next month as we had negative numbers for inflation over the past quarter (-1.9%) and year (-0.3%) as a result of government totally funding the cost of childcare during this virus crisis.

    I’m sure that all those people 67 and older are so happy that their pension isn’t going to go up because the cost of childcare went down. Don’t know about you, but I don’t know anybody in their late 60’s or older that uses childcare!

    In other news, the government here is sicking the cops on people undertaking exercise. The state government here is run by a megalomanic serial liar and staffed by a bunch of bungling bureaucrats that have no idea:

    “DHHS says under stage four restrictions you can leave home to exercise, but there are limits:

    You must not travel more than five kilometres from where you live to exercise.”

    “The Department of Health and Human Services website states that travelling in a vehicle to exercise is not permitted”

    A police spokeswoman said officers would continue to issue fines for deliberate, obvious and blatant breaches of the Chief Health Officer’s directions.

    “We know there have been some instances where people have been fined for travelling in a vehicle to exercise within five kilometres of their home,” she said.”

    But apparently you can cycle there………………

    Unreal!

    • Wolf Richter says:

      Those details from the lockdown in Melbourne sound nuts. For example, if you’re driving, what difference does it make whether it’s 5km or 7km to go to a grocery store. I just don’t get that kind of exaggerated official response.

      • Lee says:

        Wolf,

        As I have posted here several times the ‘rules’ we have and have had make so sense at all. It is typical of the state government people running the show.

        Overall Victoria and Melbourne in particular are similar to many Democrat run states in the USA: the big cities are left of center with some areas even electing greens to state and Federal offices. The rural areas and some parts of Melbourne (generally the better off, high priced real estate areas outside the CBD) are the conservative areas.

        We have been often called the “People’s Socialist Republic of Victoria” as it reflects the political outlook here.

        So it is ‘natural’ that the state government here has introduced all sorts of draconion rules that limit peoples’ freedom and and are plain stupid.

        And today the Premier was on the news stating that people don’t want to know about how the lockdown started and a bigwig General from the Australia Army contradicting him about the support that was offered and refused. He was also bleating about making the lockdown longer if more people don’t get tested.

        Here is a link to the original article for those that may be interested in reading it for themselves:

        https://www.theage.com.au/national/victoria/police-warn-against-driving-to-parks-amid-confusion-over-restrictions-20200818-p55mso.html#comments

        And there is a 21 page long ‘law’ of what people can and can’t do along with another ‘fact sheet’ some 20 pages or so long one showing what can be open and what can’t.

        Here is an article on last that one:

        https://www.theage.com.au/business/the-economy/from-brothels-to-knackeries-the-intricacies-of-lockdown-astound-20200805-p55iqt.html

        And just to show that the stupidity extends to the federal government, here is an article on people not being able to leave:

        https://www.theage.com.au/national/held-against-our-will-dutch-citizens-struggle-to-leave-australia-20200710-p55azh.html

      • MiTurn says:

        “I just don’t get that kind of exaggerated official response.”

        It’s moronic, such as the State of Wisconsin requiring WFH employees to still wear their mask during Zoom conferences, even if they’re the only person at home.

        Control, control, control. Get people used to being told what to do and being part of the herd.

        • MCH says:

          It’s all about messaging, they wanted people to wear masks all the time, and this sets an example… 🤪

          As for the draconian response, Australia has a very low infection rate to show for it. 24 K out of a population of 24.9 M, <0.1%. So, they have something to point to as a victory.

    • William Smith says:

      Yes, Andrews is indeed a megalomanic. I unfortunately exist (not live!) there. He is systematically destroying the economy and instituting a china style police state. People can’t even drive their dogs to the park a few kilometers away! They can only walk! Andrews has been sucking up the chinese belt and rail money on “infrastructure projects” (rail crossing removals etc). The federal govt has said that this is not really in the national interests. So, when the local economy has been completely destroyed by him, china will come in and save the day with huge loans, like some knight on a brilliant white stead. BTW he and people have been on many visits to his masters in china (all pre-pandemic, of course). The local inquiry (he set up) has completely implicated government incompetence as the 99% cause of this latest pan-panic wave. So they caused it and the population must now pay dearly in an Orwellian state. I cry when I think that we don’t have something like the second amendment here (and no “free speech” either). The chinese will feel right at home!

      • Lee says:

        “So, they have something to point to as a victory.”

        Victory?

        Nah, the victory was there and made by the people of the State by following all the stupid rules put in place during the first lockdown.

        The defeat was the government screw ups that allowed the virus back inot the community. The government was 100% to blame for that. It destroyed everything that was done.

        They are also to blame for letting thee virus into the aged care sector in the city – out west mainly and now a few in the east.

        Total destruction of the economy and normal ways of life.

    • Gerrard White says:

      @Lee

      Please continue your reports, with greater detail – the stupidity and pettiness on display in Aus seems greater than in other countries

      Yet in the long run equally doomed to failure as far as the bug is concerned and more suicidal as far as the spread of other illnesses, poverty and unemployment

      • Lee says:

        One of the things that many people may not know about Australia and Victoria in particular is the way the place has changed in say the last 30 years or so. It has become nothing more than a big nanny state.

        When I moved to Victoria you could walk your dog on the beach without any problems. Now there are restrictions galore all over the place and they vary from one city area to another. Woe to you if you walk your dog on the beach at the wrong time or bring your dog to the beach – big fine.

        You can’t have a bonfire on most beaches here anymore.

        Of course, no more booze, smoking, or camping on them either, but the homeless can set up in the city and parks without any problem.

        And then there are the petty ridiculous laws that rarely get enforced, but are on the books such as you can NOT use the vacuum cleaner where I live after 8:0pm.

        Lots of rules for when you are driving too: honk your horn unless to avoid an accident or dangerous situation and get fined; put your elbow out of your car window while driving and get fined; park your car, roll down your windows car more than xx centimeters and be more than xx meters away and get fined…………..

        And on and on……….

        And there was a law proposed that outlawed the use cash in the amount of A$10,000 at any business. Not quite sure if that has been passed yet or not.

    • Xabier says:

      That happened in the UK: what contagion risk is there if you travel in a car and don’t come near anyone or touch anything when exercising?

      Luckily, living in semi-rural area, I was able to be out all day at any time, on foot, although mostly I chose dawn and sunrise.

      But if you want real bureaucratic madness, try the Spanish ‘State of Alarm’ restrictions. My family went even more nuts than usual locked up.

      • SwissBrit says:

        In the UK there have been numerous instances of people driving for a couple of hours to somewhere picturesque to exercise, but unfortunately many people also had the same idea leading to huge traffic jams, overflowing car parks, huge crowds of people blocking footpaths, climbing mountains or beaches with no thought to personal distancing.
        Snowdon (Wales’ highest mountain, in the middle of a fairly remote national park), and beaches all along the south coast have all been inundated with day trippers leaving huge piles of rubbish and causing misery for all, but especially the locals.
        For these idiots, measures on the distance allowed to be travelled would have been a good thing.

    • coalman says:

      Lee, to cap- off this bull-crap an’ expert’ at the RBA this week posted an article claiming that inner Sydney high rise apartments were UNDER VALUED by 30%!!! the lies are becoming more surreal by the week, I’m so glad i live in the central goldfields.

    • robt says:

      Also in Australia one member of the household can go out for an hour, to shop for groceries. They don’t say if waiting in line at the grocery store counts towards the hour … there’s been panic buying there. But they do say that the military will deliver food to you if necessary.
      Australia: 25 million population, 24,000 ‘cases’, 450 deaths in 5 months, risk .00018.

      New Zealand just as crazy: the Health Minister Bloomfield, apparently a media star now, announces internment/concentration camps for ‘cases’ in which the whole family could be interred until test results are satisfactory.
      New Zealand: 5 million population, 1600 ‘cases’, 22 deaths in 5 months, risk .0000044.

  11. gorbachev says:

    We have tripled our online purchases.It is

    not cheaper but it does calm us down during these times.

    • Bet says:

      It took awhile but this week I discovered online shopping. Snared me a pair of slightly used Ahnu trekking shoes on ebay
      I hate going to malls. I then bought some Levi’s on sale at Penney’s. Free shipping!
      I am with the above comments. Only what I need no debt. I try to off more of my stuff all the time . Seems like everyone in my demographic downsizing. Too many possessions, possesses you

  12. Anthony says:

    Wolf,

    I really miss your youtube videos wink wink. Anyways, I’m curious on what your take is…what will happen when the party is over?

    I’m in Phoenix and have seen home sales go through the roof. Who the heck is buying…I’ve seen a lot of millenials my age buy and I’m questioning some of their financial circumstances. I’m on a mission to be debt free and holding out until after I pay off my condo next May and graduate with my MBA to get into the market. The other day at the mall there was a massive line for LVMH brands like Gucci and Armani. This just seems crazy to me. Time will tell.

  13. Josap says:

    When the pandemic hit we started buying almost everything online. Every store either delivers or you can order what you need and they will put it in your car.

    We didn’t have a stay at home order that most paid any attention to at all. No one wearing masks. The one time I ventured into the grocery store it was cleaned out – not a can in sight, no produce, no rice or beans or … I went home and ordered it from Amazon.

    Now we will go to Costco about once a month and the grocers once a month. Always during “old people hours”. People now wear masks.

  14. Chrislongs says:

    Wolf,
    Delivery & click + collect more popular in UK but added cost for supermarkets they have tried imposing high value spend, higher charge for convenient delivery time and Tesco trying Prime type monthly charge . Need to deliver to maintain market share but it costs!

    • Saltcreep says:

      Yeah, I suspect that online order and delivery of groceries as a free standing service simply isn’t broadly viable as things stand today.

      I recall that about a decade ago the postal service in my country for budgeting/forecasting purposes calculated the hourly compensation cost of delivery staff at the equivalent of about 80 USD per hour (including wages, pension contributions, employer contriutions to health and social security etc.). On top of delivery there are also, for this type of service, extra costs associated with pre delivery order taking and sorting and packaging of so many indivdual orders.

      The question is then how many deliveries is it plausible for a delivery driver to make on average per hour, and what is the average order value over which they can distribute the asscoiated additional costs? It surely depends on location, but the number of deliveries per employee hour must be quite limited even in very densely populated areas.

      General overhead like insurance, management and regulatory reporting and support functions otherwise I guess are not wildly different to those that apply to on premise sales.

      The second question, though, is whether fleet lease and maintenance costs are much cheaper than facility lease and maintenance for on premise sales for equivalent turnover?

      My speculation so far has been that, unless customers (or investors…) are willing to absorb on an ongoing basis extra costs associated with grocery delivery service, then, beyond some affluent sections of the population where people don’t care about the extra cost, such services are not really sustainable…

      • gorbachev says:

        My parents owned a grocery store.Delivery was free

        but not appreciated.When the big box stores opened

        people flocked for the lower prices.I wonder if it

        becomes safer and cheaper to buy at brick and mortar again

        will history repeat.

      • Prof. Emeritus says:

        Grocery delivery from an existing brick and mortar is not really feasible, that solution is really just a child of the lockdown: double the cost in terms of wages and assets. Grocery delivery from a warehouse though is absolutely viable. If it catches on chains will really have to choose between the two services, keeping them both is loosing money and wasting resources.

        • Saltcreep says:

          I’m very willing to see the economics of it, PE, but with my admittedly limited information I don’t as yet.

          I’d like to see a comparison of net cash flow per unit of sale, shown by on premise and delivery in comparable markets.

          If there is an insignificant gap between the two forms of doing business then I’ll concede that online orders plus delivery will probably take over more market share.

  15. The Original Colorado Kid says:

    I decided I needed to consume something in order to be truly happy, so I scratched my head and finally figured I needed a new iPad (my old one bit the dust). It arrived, I decided it was too expensive (almost $800, lots of memory), so I returned it.

    I decided to instead go for an experience, so I reserved a neat place on the west side of the Tetons for a month (the cheaper side). It was $6,500, but after awhile, I decided it was too much, and camping is better, so I got a refund.

    So, I bought a cot from REI (online). It was $90, but it wouldn’t open, so I returned it. I can sleep on my foam pad anyway, don’t really need one.

    I tried to figure out something to buy, but I don’t need anything. I finally ordered some rice from Seeds of Change. They sent my order through Amazon, which I found irritating, so I cancelled it.

    So what now? How can I find meaning in my empty life?

    I finally donated a few grand to the local animal shelters, which I should’ve done in the first place.

  16. Mad Dog says:

    Ordering groceries here in Bethesda Maryland was a complete waste of time. I tried Safeway first and went to their Web site which looked like it was designed by a third grader. It took 5 days to get a small order of bottled water delivered.

    Next, I tried Giant and my experience was even worse. They had limits on every item and then at the end they wanted a $60 minimum which I could not meet because of the limits. I exited without making any purchase.

    I would give them both grade F on their grocery home delivery service.

    • The Original Colorado Kid says:

      Our local store’s website says they offer delivery, so I placed an order. Never arrived. I finally called the store and they said they don’t offer delivery. Is there a grade below F? Minus F?

  17. Augusto says:

    An economy run on debt and spending rather than savings and investment? Can we all just stay at home collect a government cheque and get stuff left at the door? Okay, over simplified, but we are living in a fantasy bubble and it’s just a matter of time before it pops.

  18. Mad Dog says:

    The only purpose of the stores promising home delivery is not to provide home delivery. It is a loss leader scam to get people’s e-mail and contact information so that the information can be used to sell other services and products and be be sold to telemarketers and scam artists.

    There are not enough letters in the alphabet to give these supermarket chains a rating.

    • The Original Colorado Kid says:

      It’s a large chain with stores in the more urban areas and my small town probably didn’t qualify for delivery, but they really should list the towns that don’t. They already had my contact info as I do curbside pickup from them.

  19. Tony22 says:

    Wolf, “seasonally adjusted” seems like just another means for the economic wool to be pulled over our eyes, as a means to pretend that Christmas, and by extension, wedding season, does not exist, and most importantly, a way for *them* to further massage and manipulate reality in the street on the accountant’s sheet.

    At the rate numbers are changing, I thank you for posting what’s actually happening with the option to ignore the accountant’s hocus pocus.

  20. Mad Dog says:

    Here it is 5 months into this pandemic and most of the major food supermarkets in the Washington DC area are not able to stock their shelves with basic items. I’ve made multiple complaints with their customer service people with no improvement. I buy the same 15 items every time I go shopping and usually have to go to three stores to get everything I need. It now takes 2 – 3 hours to shop for15 basic food items and the prices are up 20%. And forget senior citizens hours at 6AM. I tried that. Half the people in there were under 30 years old. Another scam by the grocery stores. Now they are selling substandard and rotted food. No returns allowed because of Covid-19. They are using the Covid-19 pandemic to unload expired inventory. I’ve had to throw away about 15% of the items purchased because they were rotted and didn’t noticed it when I was shopping and rushing to get through the store as quick as possible. Already, about 90% of the food sold is processed and junk food unfit for human consumption. No wonder the health and obesity problem of Americans is getting worse every day.

    I did find one store in Rockville, Md that has good quality produce and deli, and are stocked up pretty well. Its a Safeway, believe it or not. It is never crowded , probably because of the higher prices. So there is a variation in quality from one store to the next even from the same company. I verified the prices are 15% higher than other Safeways and Giant supermarkets in the area. So here we go again. People with the means to do so get to eat better quality and healthier food which leads to better health, while those at the lower end of the income level have to eat junk and unhealthy food, and now because of Covid-19 rotted food, leading to poorer health. Welcome to America.

    • Augusto says:

      I am noticing stores and restaurants raising their prices. When you can’t make money on volume, you make it on price. Also, I am seeing shortages as well (lots of empty shelves up here in Canada). How long before sellers decide they want more fake script called $’s for the real thing, goods.

    • coalman says:

      + 1, same here in Oz, slight increases on everything in Coles and Woolworths while broadcasting their weekly specials. Take home the onions you find black traces of mould, and green tinges on the potatoes when you peel them. been in the cool store for god knows how long.

  21. Trailer Trash says:

    Ordering through the internets is literally a lifeline for us housebound people (formerly known as “invalids”) who live in remote rural areas. It sure took a long time to get websites that mostly work OK, but HTML is a very difficult environment for order entry applications.

    What amazes me is that people act like the internet form of mail-order is something new. I guess no one remembers that Sears used to send out giant catalogs twice a year, and that their stores all had order desks. People even ordered *houses* from Sears, and didn’t spend 30 years paying parasite bankers for a place to sleep.

    Rural people have depended on ordering stuff then waiting for delivery since the late 1800’s. When I had Datsun pickup trucks in the 1980s *everything* had to be ordered and it always took *two weeks*.

    So now when I order stuff and it shows up in *two days*, that is a huge improvement, for which I am grateful, for as long as it lasts. I can even order giant Hershey bars and they show up in a little cooler with a reusable cold pack, which goes in the freezer, ready for the next power failure.

    • The Original Colorado Kid says:

      I’ve stayed in a couple of those Sears and Monkey Wards houses and they were really neat. One is a B&B near Hamilton, MT (the Bitterroot Stock Farm).

      My grandparents had a house they moved from an old coal-mining settlement in W. Colorado for free. Nothing wrong with it at all. They lived in it for years. P&Z would’ve had a fit if then had been now.

  22. Are the Wayfair sales data ex-trafficking or including it?

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