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Shopify says vaccinations haven’t slowed down online shopping

Shopify's logo outside its headquarters in Ottawa
Reuters/Chris Wattie
Vaccinated Americans still seem happy to buy online, Shopify says.
  • Marc Bain
By Marc Bain

Fashion reporter

Published

More Americans are getting vaccinated by the day, and many, emboldened by loosening restrictions around mask use and warming weather in  the US, are finally heading back to stores and malls after a year of doing much of their shopping online.

But if there’s any drop in e-commerce happening as a result, it’s not registering at Shopify, a Canadian company that powers the online businesses of more than 1 million merchants globally, mostly in the US.

The company reported today that the total value of merchandise sold on its platform rose to $37.3 billion in the recent quarter, more than double the amount in the same period last year. The revenue Shopify collected on these sales reached $988.6 million, up 110%.

The pandemic caused a surge in e-commerce, not only prompting more shoppers to buy online but also pushing numerous businesses to launch digital storefronts—many through Shopify. The combination has helped fuel Shopify’s rapid growth over the past year.

That growth remains strong, and North American merchants have so far seen no slump in their online sales from the vaccine rollout, the company’s president, Harley Finklestein, told investors and analysts on a call today. Australia and New Zealand, which have been successful at keeping their infections under control and are further along in reopening, have also seen e-commerce levels remain high, he noted, saying “we’re actually not seeing any slowdown whatsoever in terms of consumers buying from our merchants.”

E-commerce as retail’s new “center of gravity”

Covid-19 sped up e-commerce adoption by a number of years, experts believe, and many of the online-shopping habits consumers developed are likely to stick. Shopify naturally has an optimistic view of the situation, but Finklestein said he believes the change in shopping behavior is permanent. Retail’s “center of gravity,” he said, has shifted from offline commerce to online. (It’s worth noting that stores still account for the large majority of retail sales though.)

That doesn’t mean e-commerce sales won’t moderate some as shoppers return to brick-and-mortar shops. Even Shopify expects as much.

Looking ahead to the rest of 2021, the company said it anticipates “some consumer spending will likely rotate back to offline retail and services,” particularly in the second half of the year, and that “the ongoing shift to ecommerce, which accelerated in 2020, will likely resume a more normalized pace of growth.”

Meanwhile, more merchants keep signing up to use Shopify, including well-known companies such as Kraft Heinz and Lego who pay for Shopify Plus, its premium service. Finklestein said in the quarter Shopify signed up a “record number of high-volume brands looking to adapt to the fast-changing retail landscape.”

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