Italy was one of the first countries in Europe to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the beginning of 2021, cases have been gradually rising with tougher restrictions in place until at least April.
Countries around the globe have been in and out of lockdowns throughout 2020 and into 2021. In response to this shifting landscape, Euromonitor International has been tracking changes in online pricing and product availability across 10 industries to see how online retailers have responded to peaks in demand in different countries.
When looking at Italy in particular, we can track how different product categories have been affected in terms of changing SKU availability and out-of-stock rates (OOS%) between 5th February and 5th March 2021.
Home care saw declining SKU numbers
Consumers have been bulk buying cleaning products since the start of the pandemic to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. In Italy, home care disinfectants and bleach saw the biggest decreases in the number of SKUs available online, at -10% and -7% respectively from 5 February to 5 March 2021. However, there was little to no increase in out of stock rates (OOS%) during the same period, showing that online retailers are removing SKU pages in response to increased demand for at-home cleaning products, instead of listing them as out of stock.
Retailers stock up on tissue and hygiene SKUs
Previously, when countries went into lockdown or tougher restrictions, we tended to see drops in SKU numbers for tissue and hygiene products. However, this time around we’re seeing big increases in the number of available online SKUs for toilet paper, retail adult incontinence and all-purpose cleaning wipes, at over 200% growth for toilet paper SKUs and over 100% growth for adult incontinence and all-purpose cleaning wipes. This shows that online retailers are stocking up with more SKUs in anticipation of increased demand.
Soap and hand care SKUs increased to meet demand
With new variants of the virus prevalent around the world, consumers’ hygiene awareness is heightened with increased handwashing and hand care. As a result, online retailers have increased their stock of soap and hand care SKUs in Italy, with big increases in SKUs available online for hand care, liquid soap and baby wipes, which all saw triple-digit growth during this period. Out of stock rates didn’t see big changes, showing that retailers added more new SKUs instead of just resolving stock issues to previous levels.
How we track SKU availability and OOS%
When tracking product availability, it is important to track both out of stock % and a number of available SKUs as they result in two very different shopping experiences. To deal with increased demand during the pandemic, some retailers removed SKU pages altogether instead of listing SKUs as out of stock. If out of stock rates are low, but the number of available SKUs is rapidly decreasing, it creates confusion for the shopper to see SKUs being removed without notification. On the other hand, if out of stock rates are high but the number of SKUs remains stable, then shoppers are more informed about the overall availability of products on a retailer’s website.
With Euromonitor International’s new global e-commerce product and price monitoring platform, Via, we were able to quickly and easily examine more than 20 million daily SKU observations across leading e-commerce retailers in 40 countries to track how the availability of selected categories and their pricing dynamics changed throughout the pandemic. Use our Coronavirus: Pricing and Availability Tracker to learn more.