Category Insights Into the Impact of Online Trends

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Online trends in household spending by category—from apparel to food to toys—are on a trajectory that create a widening gap between consumable versus discretionary goods.

The gap is widening as the online market share of discretionary goods accelerates while online penetration of consumables—i.e., food, drugs, health and beauty care—lags by comparison.

  • Based on the latest data through 2015, only about 3% of household spending on consumable goods is ordered online compared with 15% of discretionary goods, on average.
  • The trend to 2021 as forecast by MacroSavvy™ is that online spending will reach a modest 7% share of consumable goods while it accelerates to a 25% share of discretionary goods, on average.
  • The averages hide big variation among categories, however. Among consumables, food categories lag in online penetration more than drugs and HBC. Among discretionary categories, the emerging acceleration in online market share gains is greatest in apparel, toys, sporting goods, and furniture.

See the graphics for more perspective.

Impact @Work: These trends cannot be reduced to one simple impact for the category-specific sales outlook in store. The category mix looms large in determining the expected impact for any given retailer or channel—whether consumables or discretionary-goods focused. Also important are the shopper mix and the retailer response to the online threat and opportunity.

That said, one way to summarize the impact is to note that in-store growth of the average category is currently reduced by 1.0 percentage points by the toll of online growth. So if a category is growing 3% overall, it’s only growing about 2% in store because of the faster growth online.

This online toll is forecast to get bigger by 2021 for all categories, but at a faster pace for discretionary categories than consumables.

For more on the trends and forecasts by category and online—and the overall outlook going forward, see the Premium Insights below.

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