What did you take up during the pandemic? A new sport? Crafting? Pet ownership? Obsessively cleaning your house?
My daughter and I started making rooms out of shoe boxes and odds and ends we found around the house. What began as repurposing junk has stretched to purchases of items like popsicle sticks, tee-lights, and paints.
Everyone’s lives are different now than they were before March 2020. Because of this, there have been huge changes to what general merchandise is selling and what’s likely to sell during 2022.
Most retail sectors saw growth last year, especially apparel, points Neil Saunders, Managing Director and Retail Analyst at GlobalData in New York City. Clothing sales dipped during the beginning of the pandemic since everyone was staying home. Now socializing and back to work are on the horizon, and consumers are refreshing their wardrobes.
However, supply chain issues have put a damper on sales of general merchandise, especially of products coming from Asian markets, adds David Marcotte, Senior Vice President of global retail and technology for Kantar, a data and consulting firm with headquarters in London and New York.
Homewares continue to do well “because we continue to spend a lot of time at home and people are doing big projects since they have money from not traveling and going out,” says Saunders.
And this isn’t limited to one category. Consumers are buying home improvement products, furniture and smaller items like lamps, bed linens, and décor pieces “to finish projects and to make the home more comfortable,” he says.
Sales of larger products are doing less well because imports of them – items like sofas and beds – have been held up, Marcotte points out.
Demand for kitchen products also remains elevated, Saunders says, since consumers are still eating more at home, even though this demand has dropped from the height of the pandemic.
Some of this demand comes down to us upgrading the cookware we already have, but some also comes from new habits, like baking bread, since we’re home more. Plus, adds Saunders, people’s confidence in the kitchen is up so they want to buy fancier products.
However, this will likely slow down in 2022. “It’s discernibly dropped off in 2021 because there’s only so much people can buy,” Marcotte points out. “I think we’re close to saturation for kitchenware.”
As we’ve leaned into health, fitness has also received a boost over the past couple of years, increasing sales of sports equipment and apparel.
Many consumers canceled gym memberships “and took fitness into their own hands,” Saunders says. Sales of bikes and free weights especially surged, but so did running shoes and apparel, all basics for keeping fit at home.
Electronics are doing well, largely because consumers have more money to spend.
Sales of printers, computers, routers, etc. increased due to adults working at home and kids doing school at home. “Everyone needed to be connected so we saw a real surge in office and learning-related technologies,” Saunders points out.
“At the same time, we also saw a surge in some of the more leisure-oriented technologies like TVs, surround sound, entertainment systems,” he adds, since people were not socializing out of the house.
Other items that did well were secondary items like earbuds and earphones, better cameras, and ring lights, for improved Zoom calls.
Who didn’t clean their house obsessively in 2020?
Antibacterial cleaners, wipes, and the like were in short supply during much of the pandemic. In addition, everyone cleaned their houses more because they were spending more time in them, and as a result, they both created dust bunnies, and saw them scampering around.
This will stick around for a while, Saunders believes. “If you’re home, it’s natural that you should consume more cleaning products.”
Check out these cleaning products that went viral on TikTok and left shelves empty for months.
The pet industry was growing before the arrival of COVID, but now it’s booming, much of it driven by consumers acquiring animals during the pandemic, but also because we’ve spent more time with our furry friends.
Pet toys, food, necessities like bowls and litter trays, even apparel, did well over the past two years. Saunders expects demand for pet items to remain elevated because pet ownership will remain up.
It’s not just cats and dogs, though, Marcotte points out. People have been welcoming horses, small pets, and exotic animals into their lives, too.
Arts and crafts
Over the past two years, parents have invested a lot more money in arts and crafts in a desperate attempt to entertain their children — and themselves.
Hobbies like needlework, woodwork, even adult coloring books, and Lego kits became popular, both to entertain and soothe all generations.
“People had a lot more time on their hands and were looking for things to occupy them,” says Saunders.
I’m not sure how everyone else feels but personally, I’ll take playing with pets, electronics and doing arts and crafts, and not increase my purchases of cleaning products. Their full bottles just clutter my cupboards, anyway.