Analysis: Retail Starting Down a New Path with COVID-19


We are in the midst of unprecedented times. Work, family, social, health, and emotional well-being have all instantaneously changed. This disruption to our entire lifestyle will most certainly change our short- and long-term behavior as consumers. 

Our focus has shifted dramatically. Fear has moved purchases from discretionary to necessity. We are thinking more about finding solutions than fulfilling desires. While our weekly U.S. consumption trends data shows sales for the first week of March (week ending March 7) looked similar to last year with 2% dollar growth overall, we expect to see this change over the next two reporting weeks. At the industry level, the data already shows some significant trends building. 

Some industries are certainly more vulnerable than others. Even in these early stages, short-term opportunities are emerging, helping us all navigate the unknown path ahead with a little more direction and hope.

Here’s a quick look:

  • Wardrobe and beauty needs will change. Apparel and beauty sales were already slowing at the start of March, but athletic footwear saw a reversal to positive growth during that first week.
  • Office supplies benefited from a leap in sales of janitorial supplies, like disinfectant wipes and cleansers, driving double-digit dollar gains. Work-from-home supplies will be the next strong priority to benefit this industry. 
  • Growth in small appliances in the week ending March 7 indicates a focus on cooking and cleaning. This is likely to continue as these products offer assistance with living a socially distant and healthy lifestyle. 
  • While it’s still too early to see the impact of the current situation, tech and toys have huge opportunities ahead in entertainment, education, and workspace across age groups.

Marshall Cohen is the chief industry advisor, retail, for NPD. To read his complete “Retail Starting Down a New Path” blog, click here.

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