How COVID-19 has Affected Online Sales in Different Industries – Who Are the Winners and Losers?

One of the big things that have happened as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic is a significant change in people’s spending habits. This has had an effect on sales levels in different industries. Some industries have benefited financially from the pandemic; others have really struggled.

To see what these effects are, we have chosen six different industries to look at. These industries have had very different experiences from each other; during the COVID-19 crisis.

Cannabis industry

There has been some variance in the experience of different cannabis-related businesses, from the individual dispensary supplier to cannabis packaging providers.

However, the news for the cannabis industry is positive overall. Generally, sales of cannabis-related products have been strong although some states in the US have seen sales drop. The dispensaries and providers of dispensary supplies that have been most successful so far are those that provide online sales, as opposed to only having brick and mortar premises.

Travel and Tourism

The travel industry is one sector that has really suffered at the hands of COVID-19. This is not surprising given that people all over the world have been subject to lockdown restrictions which have only just begun to be lifted.

The figures around expected losses to the global travel industry are huge. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, losses could be as much as $2.1 trillion in revenue and 75 million jobs.


The grocery industry is one that has benefited from the global pandemic. This especially applies to online sales. Although, high street grocery retailers have also seen sales buoyant as they have remained open throughout the crisis.

In the UK alone, the food & grocery retail market is expected to grow by 25.5% in 2020. The main challenge to the industry has been keeping up with demand. There were initial struggles with the supply chain and with meeting grocery delivery demands. However, these seem to have eased since panic buying has decreased and lessons have been learned as the pandemic has progressed.

Medical products

The market in medical products has also been buoyant, especially in the case of certain items. For instance, there has been a big demand for disinfectant wipes, hygienic hand sanitizer, medical masks, and gloves. When the pandemic first began, demand was actually outstripping supply.

This was when the biggest increase in the sale of medical products was seen. In the US, there was a rise of 85% on the sale of similar products for the same period the previous year, according to Statista. Similar increases have been seen in other countries.

Digital Streaming

As people have been required to stay indoors, so they have taken to the Internet to be entertained. For this reason, there has been a significant increase in the number of people using streaming services like Netflix, Amazon, and Disney +. Movie studios also released some content online as no-one was able to go to the cinema during lockdown periods in different countries.

This means that the pandemic has had a positive impact on online sales in the digital streaming industry. According to Forbes, there has been a surge in Internet visits overall between 50% and 70% with a surge in the streaming of around 12%. This is good news for digital streaming providers that are hoping to retain new users, even after the pandemic subsides.

Fashion industry

The biggest problems for the fashion industry have happened in the area of omnichannel sellers. This is because many retailers have been forced to close high street stores during periods of lockdown. Even when stores have started to re-open there has been less appetite for high street shopping in general.

However, it’s not just on the high street where fashion retail has struggled, especially at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. As jobs were lost, and people had less money to spend, they were saving their financial resources to spend on essentials like groceries and medical supplies. This was the time when people were panic buying in these areas.

All of this meant that there was less money being spent on clothing and accessories online. However, as the pandemic has progressed, so the situation has begun to change. For instance, in the UK, online fashion retail sales dropped drastically. The fall was as much as 29% for the week ending March 29. However, from mid-April onwards, sales had begun to improve.

The figures suggest that the story for the fashion industry has been good and bad with online sales having recovered significantly after initial problems.

In summary

There is no doubt that COVID-19 will have a significant negative impact on the global economy overall. It’s estimated that most of the major world economies will lose at least 2.4% of the value of their gross domestic product (GDP) over 2020 as a whole.


However, there is better news in certain industries such as medical supplies, groceries, and the cannabis industry. Overall, the pandemic has not had a negative impact on them financially. The same cannot be said for industries such as travel and fashion.

Travel, in particular, has been especially hard hit. While the fashion industry is recovering, travel is still affected by restrictions and it will be a long time before the industry recovers significantly.

Overall, the pandemic has caused significant financial damage with only a few specific sectors remaining unscathed or achieving growth in their online sales.

Written by Adrian Dimakis

Adrian Dimakis loves writing about everything tech, gadgets, travel and leisure as a full time editor at LearningRegistry. Adrian graduated from UCLA with a degree in journalism and marketing, and his work has appeared in publications including USAToday and The Boston Globe. When he's not testing gadgets and accessories, checking different online services, you can find him planning his next trip on a big paper world atlas with lots of pins. Adrian is also an avid consumer with an oddly deep love for finding amazing deals on amazing products.

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