Trends by Category Online: The Big Picture They Paint

Big-box general merchandise stores and small-box specialty stores are the focus of the implications of the stair-step movement of categories online—from slowly shifting consumables goods to progressively faster-moving discretionary goods.

  • Big-Box Weakness: As discretionary categories from apparel to toys follow electronics and media online, big-box department stores—discount and traditional from Walmart to Macy’s—will remain disproportionately affected.
  • Specialty-Store Advantage: Depending on the category, specialty stores from apparel to sporting goods will fare better than big boxes as key shopper segments keep select specialty stores in their store consideration set.
  • Category Differences Matter: Although the cumulative online toll is greatest on big boxes, individual category differences matter greatly because each category is being led online by a different mix of shoppers and behavior.
  • Key Segments Differ by Category: These differ by income and age first of all—fed by rising income inequality and polarizing age trends—with the resulting extremes represented by older Have Nots and younger Have households.

See the graphics for more perspective.

Impact @Work: For more on the trends and forecasts by category and online—and the overall outlook going forward, see the prior article here and the Premium Insights below.

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