Sale of non-essential goods on online platforms picks up

Sangeetha Chengappa Forum Gandhi Mumbai/ Bengaluru | Updated on June 24, 2020

Demand led by home appliances, IT hardware and comfort wear

Sale of non-essential goods on online platforms, which had come to a standstill during the lockdown, is beginning to return to pre-Covid levels for most players.

The demand is being led by categories such as home appliances including dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and microwaves; IT hardware including earphones, home printers and Wi-Fi routers; and apparel including kids’ wear, innerwear, lounge pants and joggers.

Small-town demand

“We saw a sharp rebound in order volumes once delivery restrictions were eased. The overall sales volumes are now similar to pre-Covid levels,” said a Snapdeal spokesperson. “The recovery in order volumes has been faster in smaller towns, likely due to the limited availability of products in offline stores due to supply-chain disruptions. Demand in categories such as home and apparel are back to pre-Covid levels. New categories relating to personal safety and health are driving sustained volumes.”

For online furniture platform Pepperfry, consumer traffic had dipped to 30 per cent of pre-Covid levels during the lockdown. But sale is bouncing back now. Kashyap Vadapalli, CMO, Pepperfry, said: “Starting mid-May, the business started picking up again and is now at 80 per cent of Jan-Feb levels. Given the early signs, we are confident that by July we should be exceeding the pre-Covid business levels quite comfortably. ”

Ayushi Gudwani, founder, FableStreet, an e-commerce brand for women’s premium workwear, expects a full recovery in 3-4 months. “We have been fortunate, and have significantly reoriented our product portfolio to meet the new consumer demands and the new normal. We are very excited about hitting almost 50- 60 per cent of our pre-Covid sales levels over the next one month and a full recovery in 3-4 months.”

The new normal

Online players have had to make changes to their existing business models to handle customers in the new normal. One such example is Pepperfry’s Buy On Phone programme, wherein sales consultants speak to buyers and guide them through the furniture-buying process, given that many people might not want to venture out into markets and malls but might still need consulting to buy furniture.

Amar Nagaram, CEO, Myntra says there has been a significant shift in consumer-buying patterns post-lockdown. “Given that millions of people across the country have been spending a lot of time at home in the recent months, they are opting for comfort wear, with lounge pants and joggers among our highest-selling products, witnessing up to 8x increase from pre-lockdown daily sales.”

At Myntra, kids’ wear has seen a significant jump in share post-Ccovid with the category currently clocking 1.3-1.4x of the pre-lockdown BAU (business as usual) numbers. The lingerie segment has seen 2.5 times the demand compared with pre-lockdown levels, with a massive uptick in organic growth.

WFH impact

At Flipkart, mobiles and laptops in the mid-premium segments and refurbished laptops on its 2GuD platform have seen increased search from consumers across the country. Niche products such as work-oriented laptops equipped with graphic cards for coders and designers, and high-performance laptops with good processing power have been one of the top choices for consumers.

“Owing to the extended lockdown in the country, there has been a considerable growth in the demand for home automation products,” said a Flipkart spokesperson. “Over the past few weeks, the demand for smart kitchen and home appliances has almost doubled, with significant increase being witnessed across dishwashers, vacuum cleaners and microwaves, apart from other various categories, indicating strong consumer preference.”

Baking up a storm

At Snapdeal, there has been a 25 per cent jump over last year in the sale of kitchen items, in the past two months. There has also been a 50 per cent surge in the sale of baking items such as baking trays, cookie cutters, brushes, silicon spatula and cupcake trays as people try their hands at more exotic cooking.

But most of these companies have lost about six months in calendar year 2020; so, overall sales in FY21 will most likely be 10-20 per cent lower than that in FY20.

Aman Gupta, co-founder, boAt Lifestyle, an audio electronics brand, said, “It is hard to predict, but we are hopeful that 2021 will be better — we will be in a much better position to recover and grow fairly fast. We are excited about the second phase of going-forward — the post-pandemic phase. We are already working on our strategies for 2021. The lockdown gave us a chance to go back to the drawing board and make our base stronger, and we hope to build on it in 2021.”

Published on June 24, 2020

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