Updated Forecast Shows E-Commerce Sales Climbing 18 Percent in 2020, But Overall Retail Dropping 10.5 Percent

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NEW YORK—It has been a difficult year for brick-and-mortar retail, of course. But, for e-commerce, the year 2020 has been a record-breaker for many firms. This is borne out in a revised forecast by eMarketer for the U.S. retail sector.

The research firm, in its February retail forecast, projected modest growth of 2.8 percent (to $5.62 trillion in total U.S. retail sales), but then the coronavirus pandemic hit hard, leading to “store closures, stay-at-home orders and declined demand for nonessential goods,” according to eMarketer

As a result, the firm said it now expects there to be a 10.5 percent decline in U.S. retail sales this year, with a 14.0 percent drop in brick-and-mortar sales.

However, eMarketer said it believes the “news isn't dire for all retail channels. E-commerce is poised to grow 18.0 percent following a 14.9 percent gain in 2019, further evidence of the digital shift.”

According to its new report on U.S. retail, eMarketer also noted:

· E-commerce sales have been driven by a surge in click-and-collect, specifically curbside pickup, allowing U.S. consumers to make immediate purchases while minimizing human contact. It now expects U.S. click-and-collect e-commerce sales to grow to $58.52 billion, up 60.4 percent from its initial forecast of 38.6 percent growth.

· The 18 percent growth forecast for U.S. e-commerce in 2020 reflects a notable increase in both the number of digital buyers and the average spending per buyer. These gains reflect the pandemic's impact on new buyers joining the online retail space, including 12.2 percent growth for those ages 65 and older.

· In this pandemic economy, consumers have gravitated toward trusted and reliable retailers. As a result, eMarketer said it expects the top 10 e-commerce retail businesses to grow at above average rates (21.8 percent). Amazon will gain U.S. ecommerce market share this year, while Walmart's accelerating ecommerce growth will take it to the No. 2 position for the first time.