Assessing Bright Spots in the World of Retail

Though the coronavirus began wreaking havoc on the globe at the beginning of the new year, it’s been just less than a month since the declaration of a national emergency here in the United States. As such, there has been a major shift in consumer behavior during that time.

At first, there was the rush for products essential to containing a virus, including masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and cleaning products. Then, after the scope of the disease came further into focus, people prepared for social distancing by purchasing non-perishable foods, paper products, and water. As the month wore on, though, consumers began to adapt to their ‘new normal’ by purchasing goods that enable them to find a sense of normalcy within their own homes. From office supplies and arts & crafts to small appliances, here are some of the retail bright spots that have come to light during our time of social distancing.


Remote Work Boosts Home Tech

The change in routine has been dramatic for those who have been fortunate enough to continue working from home after the indefinite closure of offices across the country. Beyond the void of in-person meetings and water cooler conversations, people have also been forced to evaluate and  enhance their home workspaces to remain productive from afar.

As a result, home technology has seen a huge boost in sales. Items such as monitors, PCs, keyboards, docking stations, and mice saw historic sales increases through the first half of March. Meanwhile, web cameras, which have become a virtual necessity due to virtual meetings, happy hours, and hangouts, managed to double sales from March of 2019. Though a return to the office will be welcomed with open arms, consumers will likely be much more intentional about their home technology setups going forward.


Monitors, keyboards, and mice are just a few of the home office items seeing growth during this time.


Home-Schooling Spurs Spending

Of course, adults aren’t the only ones whose routines have been disrupted. As schools across the country have closed their doors, students have been relegated to learning from a distance. While teachers are doing what they can to maintain a sense of stability for their students, the reality is that a lot of this responsibility has shifted to parents for the time being. In order to navigate the homeschool situation, parents have not only had to purchase typical school supplies, but also provide entertainment for kids and the family while spending time at home. In the chart below, you can see the categories where spending has taken off in recent weeks.


Sales Growth (Week Ending March 21st)
Toys Books Office Supplies
Board Games/Puzzles (+228%) Language Arts/Handwriting (+265%) Finger Paints (+313%)
Building Sets (+76%) Study Aids (+235%) Tempera Paint (+272%)
Arts & Crafts (+70%) School & Education (+143%) Watercolor Paper (+188%)
Outdoor/Sports (+20%) General Activity Books (+128%) Window/Glass Markers (+146%)


Small Appliances Soar

Once consumers got through the initial phase of survival mode, many turned to buying small appliances. During the week of 3/15-21, nearly 80% of kitchen electric categories showed year-over-year growth and over two-thirds of the categories grew double-digits. From compact refrigerators and espresso machines to sandwich makers and waffle irons, consumers sought out appliances that could help them level up home food and beverage creations. It’s not just limited to kitchen appliances, though. Even personal care, which has struggled lately, has seen home hair clippers grow sales by 33% as consumers look to maintain their hairstyles while separated from barbershops and salons.


Coffee and espresso machine purchases are on the rise as consumers are forced to stay at home.


Whether it’s a hair clipper tutorial for those struggling to keep their ‘do in check or a barista training to help consumers make a coffee cup that holds up to the local coffeehouse, brands have the opportunity to help consumers make the most out of this new mode of adjusted living. If your brand is interested in discussing how to navigate this crisis or planning for afterwards, contact us today to learn more.  




Sources: “Now is the Time to Observe as Homebound Consumers Adjust.” NPD Group (2020), “Healthy Home Living Needs Drive Appliance Sales Gains Early in COVID-19 Crisis.” NPD Group (2020), “It’s Time for Home Productivity to Shine.” NPD Group (2020). 

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