Cyber Monday reigns as the single biggest shopping day for e-commerce giant Amazon, but this is where its returns go.

Shoppers have shifted their spending to e-commerce pure-play businesses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, according to Coresight Research — and the enticing conveniences offered to consumers staying at home and social distancing might lead to permanent changes in the way we shop.

In the firm’s latest weekly U.S. consumer survey, findings point to a marked change in how consumers shop for clothing and footwear: Three in 10 have switched some or all of their spending to an online-only retailer, the report said.

“[Consumers] have switched some or all of their spending to an online pure-play retailer such as, reflecting that shoppers have not simply switched to the web sites of the brick-and-mortar retailers they previously bought from in-store and that e-commerce pure plays have been capturing a growing online market share,” authors of the report said.

And one in seven respondents have started using in-store pickup services, with one in six using curbside pickup for their online orders as offered by fashion retailers such as Macy’s, Kohl’s and Old Navy, all according to the report.

But for those opting to shop in newly reopened brick-and-mortar stores, the firm said the process of trying on clothes has changed. “Some 17 percent of respondents have avoided trying on clothes when shopping in a store. This fear of trying on apparel in-store, coupled with an upward trend in online apparel shopping, could result in more returns for fashion retailers.”

Image courtesy of Coresight Research. 

Regardless, consumers are still buying more apparel online, as the proportion of respondents buying more clothing and footwear online than they used to jumped to around three in 10, the report said.

“We have seen this general upward trend in online apparel shopping since the week of April 1; the proportion has increased roughly 20 percentage points in three months,” the authors noted.

What’s interesting is that the online shopping trend is appearing to last even as brick-and-mortar stores slowly reopen. “We continue to see an upward trend in online apparel shopping even though retail stores have reopened. The proportion of respondents buying more apparel online surged roughly 20 percentage points in three months from 9 percent in April 1 to 29 percent in July 1. In addition, online shopping for apparel remains the number-one spending-related activity that consumers reported to have done in the past two weeks.”

COVID-19 has also impacted consumers’ returns of unwanted purchases, as one-third of all respondents said lockdowns or store closures prevented them from returning said purchases. And among those respondents, there were more consumers who have yet to return some unwanted items from the lockdown period and expect to return them in-store than by mail, authors of the report said, suggesting that consumers still prefer to stay at home — at least for now.

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