After fairly brutal holiday and spring seasons, US retail appears to be recovering somewhat, boosted by ecommerce growth. Back-to-school sales during the months of July and August are expected to climb 2.6% up from 1.4% last year according to eMarketer’s latest report.
The back-to-school season overall will account for 17.2% of full-year retail sales, unchanged from the previous three years, with the BTS ecommerce share at 16.5%, also unchanged. As a share of total retail during BTS season, however ecommerce will rise 7.9% in 2016, according to the report.
Total BTS sales for the season will reach $540 billion—a new record according to Customer Growth Partners, a consulting and research firm covering the retail industry. Thanks in part to the continued robust growth of ecommerce sales. eMarketer forecasts US retail ecommerce sales will grow 15.7% in 2016, the highest annual increase since 2011, and climb steadily through 2020.
But not all analysts believe that the growth trajectory for ecommerce is unstoppable, one firms’ data shows that it’s plateauing in nearly every product category and among every age group. Most shoppers continue to shop primarily in stores, with price the main driver for online sales, other research shows. A study from Boston Consulting Group last month even found that many consumers plan to scale back their online shopping.
“[T]he findings from this research certainly pour cold water on everyone’s expectations for a continuously rising ecommerce world,” BCG senior partner Michael J. Silverstein said in a statement. “Ecommerce winners will have to earn new dollars and new spending by providing new value. That means me-too players will suffer—and leaders will need to provide more user-friendly websites, lower prices and offers tailored to individuals customers.”
Despite this forecast, eMarketer says by 2018, ecommerce will surpass 10% of total retail sales in the US.