While the January surge in consumer spending puts overall retail sales safely back on its pre-pandemic growth trajectory, not all retailers are created equal in face of this unprecedented crisis. While some types of retailers have quickly rebounded from the shock of the first lockdown in spring 2020 or even profited from the unique situation throughout the year, others are still far off pre-pandemic levels in terms of sales.
As the following chart shows, clothing and accessories stores have been badly impacted by the pandemic, with January sales still trailing 11 percent behind last year’s total. Unsurprisingly, food services and drinking places are even worse off, with spending levels in January 16 percent off 2020 levels.
At the other end of the spectrum, nonstore retailers are the biggest beneficiaries of the ongoing crisis, as consumers shifted their spending online to avoid crowded stores and reduce the risk of contracting COVID-19. Not only did nonstore retail sales not fall during the first lockdown, but they jumped up and remained elevated ever since.
This chart shows estimated year-over-year change in retail sales in the U.S. in January 2021.
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