Just a couple of weeks ago, when the COVID-19 crisis became a reality and we entered the lockdown phase, consumers were focused on the fundamentals of clean air, water, and food. They began to find alternatives to some of the most popular grocery items and creative ways to address kids’ at-home, carb-centric meal requests. Our U.S. weekly retail data showed water filtration devices, air purifiers, food sealers, breadmakers, and sandwich makers as some of the top growth items for the home during this period in early March. Now, in the second half of the month, that survival mode appears to be evolving into a new phase. 

During the week ending March 21, nearly 80% of the kitchen electric categories we track showed year-over-year growth, and more than two-thirds grew double-digits—things like compact refrigerators, hot plates, waffle irons/sandwich makers, and specialty coffee/espresso makers. Even personal care, which has struggled overall, saw a bright spot in home hair clippers, with 33% dollar gains. This is a significant change from the prior week when just a handful of categories showed growth. Consumers have entered into a mode of adjusted living where “do-it-yourself” comes from necessity, and the home industry is benefiting. But this is an uncertain journey, and we are already seeing substantial shifts in behavior from week to week.

Just as the news related to COVID-19 is moving fast, so are the new consumer behaviors emerging every day. This is a time for the home industry to be observant, innovative, and agile. Needs are emerging out of changing lifestyles and the desperation to adapt. Marketers need to pay attention to everything seen and heard on social media, virtual chats, and text messages—from lamenting the situation to creative life-hacks. Manufacturers need to market to these needs and get their brand message out as a trusted resource to help consumers feed their families, enjoy a cup of coffee that isn’t from their favorite coffeehouse counter, and do their best barber or hairdresser impersonation.

Behaviors are changing in real time, and no one knows the long-term effects of these changes. The home industry has an opportunity to provide some comfort to a changing consumer in a time of need, which will build affinity for the future.