Will online shopping habits change after the pandemic?

Andrew M. Santos

The global e-commerce giant Amazon is set to report its fourth-quarter earnings Tuesday. The company has taken its growth to a whole new level during the pandemic since all of the lockdowns and brick-and-mortar store closures and restrictions have sent millions more American consumers shopping online.

What does it mean for this e-commerce juggernaut that vaccination is proceeding and economic reopening may be on the horizon?

Market research company eMarketer projects that Amazon sold nearly half a trillion dollars worth of stuff last year. That would be 37% more than the year before.

eMarketer analyst Andrew Lipsman said Amazon’s gained market share against its brick-and-mortar-bound competitors as consumers rushed to buy online.

“The big question about some of these habits people have adopted with e-commerce is, what carries forward? The biggest category is grocery, household essentials, where Amazon’s really well positioned,” Lipsman said, with its Prime service and extensive network of fulfillment centers.

One risk going forward, said Nick Shields at Third Bridge, is that Amazon’s growing market power could turn consumers off.

“From a sort of PR and marketing standpoint, they should be worried about some of these efforts among consumers to shop at their local small businesses,” Shields said.

And, he said, once the economy reopens, some new Amazon customers could go back to shopping in person because they missed it in the pandemic.

What are the details of President Joe Biden’s coronavirus relief plan?

The $1.9 trillion plan would aim to speed up the vaccine rollout and provide financial help to individuals, states and local governments and businesses. Called the “American Rescue Plan,” the legislative proposal would meet Biden’s goal of administering 100 million vaccines by the 100th day of his administration, while advancing his objective of reopening most schools by the spring. It would also include $1,400 checks for most Americans. Get the rest of the specifics here.

What kind of help can small businesses get right now?

A new round of Paycheck Protection Program loans recently became available for pandemic-ravaged businesses. These loans don’t have to be paid back if rules are met. Right now, loans are open for first-time applicants. And the application has to go through community banking organizations — no big banks, for now, at least. This rollout is designed to help business owners who couldn’t get a PPP loan before.

What does the hiring situation in the U.S. look like as we enter the new year?

New data on job openings and postings provide a glimpse of what to expect in the job market in the coming weeks and months. This time of year typically sees a spike in hiring and job-search activity, says Jill Chapman with Insperity, a recruiting services firm. But that kind of optimistic planning for the future isn’t really the vibe these days. Job postings have been lagging on the job search site Indeed. Listings were down about 11% in December compared to a year earlier.

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