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May 12, 2020
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Global cross-border e-tail sales rise during and after pandemic

May 12, 2020

Global cross-border fashion and beauty e-tail sales have risen 11% this year, according to figures from e-commerce solutions specialist Global-e. But the strongest rises are linked to consumer confidence. Lockdowns have meant consumers can’t get to physical shops, and we would assume that e-tail (including cross-border) would rise. But it seems that consumers need to see the potential for lockdowns ending to feel confident enough to spend.


Global-e tracked the growth of cross-border e-tail orders based on over 350 merchants selling to international markets. Some 80% of those merchants were fashion and beauty-focused.

It said it has seen an average market recovery of between six and eight weeks from initial lockdowns and the slump in discretionary buying they caused before seeing a rebound to pre-pandemic-style sales figures.

The analysis covers January to April, which means it takes in the pre-pandemic, lockdown, and post-pandemic periods in many countries. 

The results show significant differences between regions that haven’t been severely affected by the virus compared to those with high infection rates and quarantine measures, also highlighting the impact on market performance between regions depending on what phase of the pandemic they’re in.
In hard-hit Italy, cross-border sales increased by 40%+ in April, beating pre-crisis figures. But the country had seen a decline in sales during the peak of the virus throughout February and March. “This suggests that online cross-border spending increases significantly as infection rates decline and consumer confidence gradually increases, while physical retail remains low across markets,” Global-e said.

In other less-hard-hit European markets like Austria and Denmark, discretionary online cross-border spending also grew considerably in both March and April as customer confidence increased.

Meanwhile, harsh quarantine measures in the Gulf countries haven’t seemed to weaken discretionary online cross-border imports, with trading from January to March almost at a pre-crisis level. This was followed by a “quantum leap in April sales gearing up to Ramadan holiday gifting,” we’re told.

East Asian markets that were the first hit by Covid-19 saw sales falls in January and February linked to increasing numbers of infections and casualties, plus widespread lockdowns. But sales were already rebounding by March, hitting a similar level to that of December.

Australia and New Zealand that were fairly late to go into lockdown, are still trading at low volumes. And the US, which also went into lockdown late, saw a downturn in April that meant the month was tracking 25% below March’s figures.

Amir Schlachet, co-founder and CEO at Global-e, said: “It is already clear that Covid-19 is having a huge impact on how consumers shop worldwide and many retailers have become completely dependent on their online stores. As the spread of Covid-19 differs between markets, reaching its peak at different periods, we have seen that brands and retailers selling across multiple markets were able to balance the sales between markets and in many cases have seen increases in their overall international e-commerce sales throughout the crisis. Cross-border e-commerce will play an important part in retailers’ recovery as it enables retailers to serve demand from countries where shoppers have returned to normal after passing the peak of the pandemic.”

And he added that even with lockdowns being lifted and physical stores reopening, “many shoppers are continuing to shop online, suggesting the recovery of high street retail is slower and may never fully recover to pre-crisis levels”.

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