DIAMOND BAR, Calif. — Automotive is the single biggest retail segment in the U.S., accounting for over $1.2 trillion in retail spending in 2020, according to new research from the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA).
That amount of spending equates to 20% of total U.S. retail spending of 6.2 trillion, according to the newly released Retail Trends Report from SEMA Market Research.
The report highlights U.S. retail spending and includes new findings on the retail side of the specialty-equipment market, including specialty-automotive shopping behavior and trends.
The vast majority (86%) of retail spending in the U.S. is still carried out in physical, bricks-and-mortar locations, the survey shows, although online sales are growing steadily, rising to 14% of the overall market last year from 11% in 2019.
To help businesses understand automotive aftermarket retail trends by product and retail channel, as well as consumer and shopping behavior, the SEMA report contains additional findings, including:
- The specialty-automotive aftermarket is ahead of the curve on online sales, with just over half of the $47.9 billion spent on specialty parts in 2020 going through online retail channels. SEMA expects the share of online retail sales will level off, then return to its historical trend of gradual growth over the next couple of years.
- In the longer term, retailers should watch how the vehicle population evolves. Light trucks like pickups, SUVs, and CUVs are expected to represent 80% of new vehicles sold through 2028, according to the research.
- Alternative-fuel vehicles (e.g., hybrid and electric) are a small but growing share of new vehicles sold, expected to account for one-fourth of new vehicle sales by 2028 and 45% by 2035.
- In recent years, specialty-automotive consumers most commonly have bought parts in a "mixed-mode" fashion — i.e., buying both in-person and online, with smaller portions favoring exclusively in-person or exclusively online.
- For many consumers, specialty wheels and tires and high-performance chemicals represent the "gateway drugs" that can lead to more ambitious modifications to the vehicle's appearance, performance and handling, SEMA said.
For more data on the state of U.S retail and retail in the automotive specialty-equipment market, download the 2021 SEMA Retail Trends Report at sema.org/research.