It seems that the majority of the news we consume via various forms of media is bad news. Recessions, violence, and the coronavirus dominate the headlines. And understandably so. But fortunately, it’s not all gloom and doom.
Yes, many businesses have suffered economically and have had to lay off many of their employees. The restaurant and airline industries are two of the most prominent. But there are other industries that have fared well, even prospered enough to reach new levels of revenue and profits during the pandemic.
Let’s take a look at five of these and see if you have done business with any or all of them.
People have not just continued to eat; they’re eating more than they did during pre-pandemic times. Grocery store parking lots and aisles are continually full of shoppers with full carts, and their websites are enjoying more traffic from online shoppers than ever before.
According to an article published by Reuters, Kroger, the nations leading grocery retailer, saw a 127% surge in digital sales for the quarter ending August 15, 2020. Overall, the company anticipates a 13% increase in sales in 2020.
Several factors are driving the increase in grocery store sales:
- Working from home. Research conducted by Stanford and released in late June showed that 42% of the U.S. labor force worked from home full-time. Since that time, a portion has returned to work at their offices, but many still remain at home. Instead of eating in cafeterias or restaurants near the office, they are enjoying lunch and snacks at home, all of which came from the grocery store, or Walmart, or Target.
- Kids are being schooled at home. Instead of sending their children to the old brick and mortar school buildings, many parents continue to opt for “distance learning” from home out of concern for their children’s safety during the pandemic. Instead of giving their kids lunch money, parents are stocking the fridge for the youngsters to grab lunch and snacks. And kids love to eat. The increased grocery bill reflects that.
- Stress and binge eating. The COVID Era is stressful. There’s not only the fear of contracting the disease that causes anxiety; there are the stresses of losing your job or facing the possibility of losing your job and spending inordinate amounts of time at home, in close quarters, with family. This leads to many people heading to the refrigerator for some comfort food.
All of this eating, coupled with gyms having been closed and people now being slow to return, has led to a surge in fitness equipment purchases. Weights, treadmills, and yoga mats have been popular sellers during the pandemic.
One fitness equipment company, Peloton, has had a phenomenal increase in sales during the pandemic. In September, CNN Business reported that Peloton announced its first-ever quarterly profit, a result of a 172% increase in equipment sales and over 1 million people subscribing to streaming classes they offer.
The pandemic has led to a more sedentary lifestyle for many, and they’re battling the bathroom scale by spending on equipment that will keep them healthy.
A drive past the local cineplex will show near-empty parking lots at times when they used to be full. Many people just aren’t ready to be in a dark, enclosed environment where people are eating and drinking without their masks on. Instead, they’re staying at home and watching their movies and favorite shows on streaming services.
Netflix reported adding 15.77 million subscribers in the first three months of 2020 and 10.09 million between April and June, giving them their biggest growth spurt in the company’s history. Apple TV+ and Disney+ are also experiencing positive growth.
Gaming has also experienced tremendous increases in participation as people have been forced to stay home and entertain themselves. The World Economic Forum reported in late September that year-to-date, $29.4 billion of video games were sold in the U.S, which was a 23% increase over the same period in 2019. With after-school and weekend activities being canceled, kids and adults are spending greater amounts of time with their gaming consoles.
People have found great comfort during the pandemic by spending time bonding with their pets. For some, it’s the only company they have.
Bloomberg reported that New York was facing a shortage of dogs and residents have adopted 10 times more pets than usual, while Los Angeles has seen a 70% increase in adoptions from shelters. Many people are on waiting lists to adopt or buy new pets.
All of these pets finding new homes has been a boon for pet supply stores and pet services. Petco and PetSmart are both doing a brisk business, and mobile grooming, pet walking, and poop-scooping have become popular side hustles. Man’s best friend is getting an opportunity to be exactly that.
Many bars and taverns are still closed across the U.S, but people are still enjoying their cocktails. According to Nielsen in an article distributed by Winsight Grocery Business, the percent of boxed wine sales increased more than tenfold between February and April, and 1.75 liter spirits sales were 23 times higher.
Beer fared just as well. 30-packs of beer sales were up 21% and 24-packs were up 20%. Interestingly, sales of comparably smaller six-packs decreased by 2%. People were stocking up on larger quantities, much to the joy of alcohol retailers.
Though purchases of alcohol have increased at liquor and wine retailers, it doesn’t necessarily mean that Americans are drinking more. It may be that they’re consuming the same amount of alcohol, they’re just getting it from a different source. It means more lost revenue for bars and restaurants.
What do these five industries have in common? People want to feel better about themselves and their situation.
The pandemic has been brutal on the American psyche. The buying public is richly rewarding businesses that can help us to enjoy the moment and take our focus away from the bad news of the day. Hopefully, the pandemic will subside soon, but our quest for fulfillment won’t. At least some businesses hope it doesn’t.
Jack Wolstenholm is the head of content at Breeze.
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