Wednesday, February 21, 2024

From Pet Adoptions to Home Improvements to Sweatpants: 10 COVID-Fueled Consumer Trends That Will Last

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As Americans crouched in the middle of the continuing pandemic, unable to travel or their usual social activities, they sought different outlets for their energies and, by extension, their spending.

Millions of people across the country, looking on their own to care for bored children, have adopted pets in record numbers. Others thought they might as well fix their roof or install a new home office in their basement. Another group of people doubled down on entertainment in their homes while theaters were closed, or created their own home gyms. Legions of shoppers have found they are happy to walk into a store to pick up an order online without having to come in, or pay without having to touch anything other than their own phone.

“The way consumers want to shop has changed permanently and it’s not backing down,” says Sonia Lapinsky, CEO of AlixPartners. Fortune. Services such as curbside pickup and contactless payment are now “table stakes”.

While many consumer behaviors may revert to what they were before COVID, some of these changes are here to stay. Here are some of the consumer trends Fortune think will last after most Americans are vaccinated and the pandemic has abated.

Puppy love

Americans have gone mad about dogs (and, to a lesser extent, cats), resulting in an increase in adoptions that has fueled the pet industry. Petco, which aims to return to the stock market soon, said sales were up 16% in the last quarter, while Chewy saw his business increase by almost 50%. Legions of new ‘pet parents’ will only accelerate the pre-pandemic trend towards humanizing pets, so expect the rise in fido-focused spending to continue. .

Home is where the expenses are

In November, consumers did what they have been doing since the outbreak of the pandemic: spend less on trendy clothes, but much more on domestic projects. As analysts expect home values ​​to remain stable and more Americans are working from home at least part of the time, even once it’s safe to venture out again in the world, renovation projects will continue at a steady pace and solidify Lowe’s and Home Depotas two of the biggest winners in retail.


Etsy flourished during the pandemic, in part by selling huge amounts of face masks ($ 130 million in the first quarter alone); of the society income doubled during the first nine months of the year. The craft products e-commerce site, which has made great strides in improving the reliability of order delivery from its sellers, has attracted many new entrepreneurs, more than one of whom need to supplement their income. during a brutal recession. Along the way, he’s tapped into a significant cultural shift that sees many consumers looking for more personalized products than what they can find in big box stores.

Curbside pickup

It may seem like a pedestrian service for shoppers, but the curbside pickup made all the difference in determining the winners and losers in retail this year. Chains like Petco and Ulta Beauty which did not offer the service before the pandemic but got up quickly like spring locks, limited retail options immediately saw the benefit. And now that shoppers have gotten used to the convenience of picking up orders online in a way that doesn’t even require them to leave their cars, and at a speed that makes it difficult even Amazon to be competitive – expect customers to integrate their curbside shopping on a regular basis.

Casual and comfortable are in, dressed came out

Working from home transformed sweatpants into office clothes and deepened the so-called “casualness” of the American wardrobe. With workers not very concerned about work clothes – at least waist to waist – and fewer events that people want to treat themselves to, 2021 saw overall clothing sales plummet. The exception to the rule: retailers specializing in sportswear or casual clothing. To see this schism play out in corporate results, just compare the results of struggling fashion retailers like Banana Republic, Macy’s or Nordstrom with those of Lululemon Athleta or Old Navy. Expect the trend towards casual clothing to continue through 2021, with US offices not expected to be back in attendance anytime soon.

E-commerce for the little guy

In March, as non-essential retailers love Kohl’s and Old Navy was ordered to shut stores indefinitely, they were the least able to fall back on large, established e-commerce companies. This is not the case for the countless small local stores. This has led to an increase in the number of such companies following the Shopify path to building a digital business fast. Shopify, which provides the technology to operate an ecommerce site, said sales on websites using its technology increased 76% during the Black Friday-Cyber ​​Monday period, much of that time. growth being fueled by companies new to online sales.

Who needs a gym?

Peloton sales exploded as gyms closed for weeks across the country and the wealthiest looked for other ways to stay in shape. (The manufacturer of stationary bikes sales more than tripled in the last quarter.) But many Americans have also turned to cheaper ways to stay fit, create a new cycling and running boom. This has now translated into influx of ski equipment sales for the colder months.

Zoom in

As much as we are talking about “zoom fatigue”, video conferencing has been an essential way for people to stay connected, professionally and socially. It remains to be seen if Zoom itself will maintain its overwhelming popularity as security-conscious companies increasingly turn to services like Microsoft Teams and Google Meet. But with vastly improved video conferencing technology and working from home likely to remain a popular option, this way of connecting remotely isn’t going away anytime soon.

Movies in the comfort of home

Netflix, HBO Max, and similar services have become a lifeline for tens of millions of Americans during the pandemic, allowing them to binge watch programs whenever they want. Unless people miss the viewers talking or eating loudly during a movie, it’s hard to see viewers flocking to theaters en masse – with the likely exception of seeing blockbuster movies that demand the big screen. And at least some of the Hollywood studios seem to indicate they agree: Warner Bros. said this month he would release all his films 2021 in theaters and on HBO Max simultaneously.

Contactless payment

Even before the pandemic, more and more businesses were cashless, despite the apprehensions of some local government regulators that this excludes America’s large “unbanked” population. But with COVID-19, the ability to complete a transaction without touching anything – via “tap-and-pay” – has become a selling point for many stores and restaurants. By mid-2020, the use of contactless payment had almost tripled in the United States compared to spring 2019. The convenience and ease of this contactless option will make it a staple of consumer spending in the United States.

More to read absolutely retail cover of Fortune:


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