Online retail sales slow down in August after massive spike during pandemic

Adobe's latest digital economy data shows that online shopping activity declined in August as more physical stores opened up across the US.

The pandemic-induced surge in online retail sales is beginning to level off, according to Adobe's latest Digital Economy Index. Launched earlier this year, Adobe's Digital Economy Index analyzes trillions of online transactions across 100 million products in 18 categories. The idea behind the Digital Economy Index is to reflect what consumers and businesses are actually buying.

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Adobe's latest data shows that online shopping activity declined in August as more physical stores opened up across the US. Despite online sales being up 42% year-over-year in August and reaching $63 billion, it was markedly lower than July when online sales grew 55% year-over-year. 

Roughly 27% of survey respondents said they felt more comfortable shopping in physical stores in August compared to July.

However, Buy Online, Pick Up in Store, commonly referred to BOPIS, continues to be extremely popular among consumers, with usage surging 59% month-over-month in August and 259% year-over-year. 

Meanwhile, an additional $107 billion has been spent online since March, with the first eight months of 2020 driving $497 billion in online spend. As of August, there have been 130 days where online sales surpassed $2 billion in the US, compared to only two $2 billion days outside of the holiday season in 2019.

"While online shopping continues to dominate, we're now seeing a slowdown in growth as more people return to shopping in brick-and-mortar stores and consumers curb their online spending across certain categories, like apparel," said Vivek Pandya, senior digital insights manager for Adobe Digital Insights.  

"Additionally, the last-minute momentum that impacted travel bookings, was sorely lacking when it came to driving online retail sales, over the Labor Day Weekend. Despite these factors, online sales were up 42% YoY in August, reaching $63 billion."