Shopping Trends During the Pandemic

Among the items Americans have bought during the pandemic are bread makers, big-screen TVs, puzzles and vacuum sealers, according to market research company NPD

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Stay at home orders the last few months due to the coronavirus pandemic has led to online retail therapy for many Americans.

Among the many feel-good items retailers have seen a spike in are bread makers, big-screen televisions, puzzles, vacuum sealers, air purifiers, pajamas and cozy socks, according to Marshal Cohen, the chief retail analyst at the NPD Group.

"The stimulus money that the government put out, between the additional monies that they gave businesses, as well as consumers, it actually worked," Cohen said. "Consumers were spending discretionary money that they weren't spending in traditional places — what I call discretionary divergence." 

NPD Group, a market research firm, found that people were shopping for essentials in March and April and then started buying more entertainment and self-care items. 

While people saved money on gas, child care, travel and entertainment, they splurged on pools, bikes and home gym equipment, Cohen said. 

"The biggest that surprised all of us at NPD was the resilience of the consumer, and their desire to spend even when we were in the heat of the most challenging times," Cohen said. 

Right now is a good time to be a consumer if you're looking to score some major deals, especially if you're willing to do in-person shopping, and in some cases wait in line.  

"What's happening is retailers have to make room for new merchandise to arrive and have to sell off at a deep discount to be in a position to do that," Cohen said.  

Retailers have a lot on the line with so many unknowns as fall approaches. Back to school and back to college shopping season is the second biggest holiday period in retail and it could be in jeopardy, Cohen said.

"Until parents know what the game plan is in their local community for back to school, they will not start their back to school shopping," Cohen said. "They haven't even started to think about it. Retail relies in many cases not only for those who shop for back to school for kids but there's the additional purchases, the impulse purchases that occur when mom or dad buy for junior, they also tend to buy for themselves."

People may soon see great deals on seasonal merchandise, but it remains to be seen what Halloween will look like. And this holiday season, expect to see gift options that will help you live in a germ-free environment. 

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