Aided by the economic stimulus payments and with the pandemic still in full swing, consumers continued to spend on categories that made their lives at home more comfortable in the first six weeks of 2021, reported The NPD Group. Like housewares, consumer electronics and small appliances, consumer spending on general merchandise categories realized double-digit year-over-year dollar gains in January and the first week of February.

Throughout the pandemic, consumers purchased products that made staying at home more comfortable and palatable. Spending at retail on these and other categories, like sports equipment, reached $706 billion in 2020, a one percent increase over 2019.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to adapt, and they did so quickly, shifting their discretionary spending from travel and other experiences towards the here and now of a new homebound lifestyle,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor, retail. “Though there was some struggle to keep pace and align retail marketing and merchandising, this rapid shift in consumer buying behavior propelled several industries, like consumer technology and housewares forward, and digital was at the forefront.”

Online dollar sales of discretionary general merchandise grew 34 percent in 2020. Small appliances, video games, housewares, consumer electronics, and toys were the industries with the strongest overall growth for the year and led the e-commerce charge with online gains greater than 50 percent each.

Thus far, every week in 2021 has posted double-digit growth in discretionary retail spending in the general merchandise categories NPD tracks, a trend that has continued into early February.

In the week ending February 6, 2021, discretionary retail dollar sales increased 13 percent versus the same week last year, NPD’s retail early indicator data shows. Even some industries that have struggled due to COVID-19’s impact, like fashion, are showing signs of improvement. NPD’s checkout information shows purchasing in the online channel continues to outperform year-ago results by more than 30 percent.

“The robust nature of this continued spending, albeit helped by the stimulus payments, is impressive in that the consumer demand and desire for products to enhance their lives at home are clearly there,” added Cohen. “But with many products being one-and-done purchases by nature, future retail momentum will require product and marketing innovation that creates new consumer intrigue.”

Photo courtesy AP