PORT WASHINGTON, N.Y. – Per transaction rates that rose during the COVID-19 outbreak are still running higher than in the pre-pandemic era, according to The NPD Group. However, the number of shopping occasions per week still falls short of the 2019 level, except at pure-play online retailers, which have increased shopping visits 49%.
In each of the 12 months since March 2020, the average amount spent per shopping occasion has been between 13% and 29% higher than the same month in the prior year. NPD found the new spending levels have held relatively steady since March 2021.
In January 2020, the average spend per shopping transaction was just under $28. At the onset of the pandemic two months later, it jumped to $34.13. Seasonal peaks thereafter ranged in the $37 range. The average for July 2021 was $34.83.
NPD believes the increase is partially due to a general shift toward online purchasing, where average selling prices and the amount spent on each transaction already tended to be higher. It speculated that the lower level of shopping occasions indicates consumers are still geared toward stock-up purchasing.
“Fewer shopping trips to limit in-person contact at retail stores, combined with supply-chain challenges making fewer products available, means consumers are more willing to spend more now to get the products they need,” said Marshal Cohen, retail chief industry advisor for NPD. “This dynamic alters the traditional cadence of product seasonality and creates less price sensitivity.”
Across the combined in-store and online retail sector, the strongest basket growth has taken places at grocery and drug stores, warehouse clubs, hardware and farm stores, and mass merchants. The amount spent per shopping occasion through July of this year at each channel averaged at least 20% higher than 2019 levels.
“Leading into the holiday shopping season, we can expect to see consumers spending more for better products, with fewer items under the tree,” said Cohen. “The evolving pandemic lifestyle is already influencing what consumers are buying. Layer on reduced in-store shopping frequency and the continued strength of online shopping, and the critical role of impulse shopping will remain muffled.”
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