In March 2020, total B2C online product sales in the Netherlands went up +28.8%, compared to March 2019. Multi channel retailers increased their e-commerce sales by +35.4%, sales from online pure players (web only) were +24.4% higher. Total retail sales (on- and offline) were +3.5% higher in March 2020, compared to last year. This was reported recently by the Dutch National Statistics Office (CBS).
The impact of the coronavirus is clearly reflected in the web sales in the Netherlands. Since the reporting of internet sales was introduced by the Statistics Office in January 2014, there has never been a higher monthly growth than in March 2020. Clearly, the lockdown has forced consumers to switch immediately to the online channel. This explaines why the increase in online sales by multi-channel retailers doubled in March 2020 (+35.4%), compared to February, when +18.1% higher sales were reported compared to last year. Online shopping for groceries is seen as one of the main drivers of this development, although supermarkets and grocery stores were never closed because of the Corona crisis. Many other retail stores have (voluntarily) closed down in March, forcing their customers to go online. By the end of April many stores have re-opened, so it will be interesting to see if and how consumer behaviour will change as a result of this.
Online pure players reported substantial increases in sales as well in March (+24.4%), where February sales were +16.8% higher than last year. Amazon’s market entry in the Netherlands on 10 March 2020 might have impacted this further growth acceleration.
In order to show the impact of COVID-19 on the total retail market (online included), developments in February (pre-corona) and March (start of corona) can be compared (see above chart).
While the total retail market (online sales included) grew by +3.5% in March 2020, there were clear distinctions between between the main product segments.
First of all, the chart shows that the total market for food grew by +12.2% in March, a huge increase compared to February, when sales went up +3.8%, compared to last year. At the same time, non-food retail went down -8.0% in March, while sales in February still were +5.1% higher than in February 2019.
In the food market, people started hamstering massively at the supermarkets, leading to +13.1% higher sales there. The fact that all bars and restaurants in the Netherlands were closed since March 15 probably supported this trend, as home consumption of food and drinks will have gone up.
In the non-food retail market, sales in clothing (-41%) and shoes (-40%) collapsed in March, while sales in consumer electronics/white goods (+17%) went up, partly on account of people working from home. Sales in DIY/kitchens/floors (+23%) were much higher, probably because people suddenly had the time to improve their homes, due to the lock down.
Furthermore, sales in drugstores (also selling self medication in Holland) went up for obvious (hygienic) reasons (+15%).
According to several experts, it seems likely that the shift towards online shopping in Holland will be continued in the long run and will give a new impulse to online shopping. More consumers have experienced the comfort and ease of buying products online, also in product categories they weren’t acquainted with until now, like food. Besides that, online shopping offers safety for consumers and employees, which is now an important element in the customer journey. This could continue to be an important factor in the post-corona era.
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