The Coronavirus crisis disrupted many things. One of these was consumer behavior. Consumers everywhere are finding new ways to adjust, connect, engage, and entertain. Since the start of the quarantines the demand for some product categories soared beyond all expectation. Here is a look.
Most schools and workplaces were closed in Q1 2020. Parents were faced with the new challenge of coping with work and parenting 24/7. To compensate for social isolation and lack of lack of contact with friends, “parents turned to toys for help.”
While most industries struggled with slumps in demand, toymakers faced a completely different kind of problem. They could not produce and supply fast enough. Research firm NDP stated in a June 2020 report that the US toy industry suddenly expanded from $256 million in January to $3.6 billion in March. Games, puzzles, and outdoor sports equipment contributed to 77% of the market expansion. Building sets, arts, and crafts accounted for the remaining 23%. Forbes reported that American puzzle-maker Ravensburger witnessed a 370% jump in year-on-year sales within two weeks in April. CNBC reported that the firm has been selling 20 puzzles per minute on average in 2020, compared to 7 puzzles per minute in 2019. In an interview with CNBC Ravensburger CEO Filip Franke stated that this was a first in the company’s 136 year history. Many toymakers employ migrant workers. For these migrants the priority is to transfer money back to their home countries as remittances. Workers in the toy industry did not just keep their jobs; they became busier than ever.
Home workout equipment
Most gyms and sports facilities were closed since the lockdowns. People were forced to stay indoors. As a result there was a massive spike in the sale of home workout equipment. Business Wire reported in May that fitness equipment sales grew by 170% during the lockdowns. A Digital Economy Index unveiled by Adobe in March shows that fitness product sales increased by 55% between March and June. Treadmills, indoor exercise bikes, and rowing machines were favorites. According to some reports the spike in sales of certain categories of fitness equipment was as high as 600%. Recent sales figures of products such as kettlebells, bikes, and jump ropes reflect the commitment that so many Americans have for fitness.
Games were not just a source of necessary distraction. During the lockdowns some video games actually helped players connect with others online. CNBC released a report in June on how Nintendo Switch gaming consoles were “flying off the shelves”. Japanese gaming giant Nintendo witnessed a sudden surge in sales with the release of ‘Animal Crossing: New Horizons’. The interactive game allows players to meet others virtually, while collecting and building things in a fantasy world. The need for interaction certainly fueled part of the game sales frenzy. Nintendo’s profits on its popular Switch console doubled in March compared to the same period in 2019. Other gaming bigwigs like Sony also benefitted. In anticipation of a spike in demand for its PlayStation 5 consoles Sony shipped 50% more units than initially planned.
DIY home improvement and hardware
Since the lockdowns most of us have been spending unprecedented amounts of time at home. Our homes doubled as workplaces, schools, gyms, studios, dens, laboratories, and much more. More Americans saw it fit to take up DIY home improvement projects. Yahoo! Finance reported that home centers, garden centers, hardware stores, and building materials suppliers realized a year-on-year sales increase of 22.6%. A study by market research firm Consumer Specialists found that 57% of homeowners prioritized home improvement during the first 3 months of COVID-19 lockdowns.
More time spent at home created the need for dedicated spaces like playhouses and home offices. A September report by NPR said that 3 out of 4 homeowners have completed a home improvement project since the onset of the pandemic. The highest sales surge was in outdoor living products. Americans took to converting their backyards into controlled outdoor environments for a variety of uses. This trend is expected to continue. 78% of homeowners said they plan to start a home improvement project in the next 12 months.
The terrifying sight of empty store shelves fueled the widespread fear of the shortage of essentials. Many responded by growing their own stuff. Americans planted a range of edible items like tomatoes, potatoes, and onions. Many opted for more aesthetic alternatives such as tulips. A massive increase in the sale of plants, seeds, and bulbs created a temporary shortage of gardening supplies. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri received over 10,000 orders. This was 10 times its regular volume, and an unprecedented increase in its 22-year history. Another plant seller reported that people were not just buying seeds for growing food. “It’s flowers, herbs, everything is selling at unbelievable rates”. According to the Washington Post home gardening became a form of therapy during the lockdowns. Some of the largest sellers of vegetable and flower seeds in the US ran out of stock.
Home design items
With more time spent indoors it became imperative to upgrade comfort, cleanliness, and decor. Forbes reported that luxury consignment retailer The RealReal witnessed a 23% week-over-week increase in sales since the start of the lockdowns. Online furniture and home renovation shop Wayfair saw massive demand for kitchen items and soft goods. Beddings, towels, mattresses, napkins, plates, placemats, and a range of other items were sold in much higher volumes than usual. Forbes attributes this trend to more people cooking and eating at home. Sales of items in the house and art category jumped 16% year-on-year between March and June.
Analysts are predicting that the current trend will impact the market for years. Social distancing is certainly still on. There is a bigger picture too. Market trends are simply a reflection of the shift in the ideology of Americans. There is a definite preference for higher self-reliance. It is good to see people taking charge of their bodies and their lives. In the view of many, the improvements were long overdue.
About the author:
Hemant G is a contributing writer at Sparkwebs LLC, a Digital and Content Marketing Agency. When he’s not writing, he loves to travel, scuba dive, and watch documentaries.