Staying In Is the New Going Out: The Hygge Trend’s Impact on American Retail

Let’s face it—the world can be a pretty scary place. Throughout history, people have turned to different forms of escapism to recharge and refuel from their increasingly high-stress lifestyles.

After the 2008 recession, younger generations spent more time at home. Watching movies, playing video games, and crafting home-cooked meals, they did everything they could to keep things affordable and convenient in the comforts of their cocoons. Turns out, they liked it—and decided to stay.

Today, not much has changed. People still want to create a sanctuary amid the hectic dance called life. The only difference this time around is that they have more toys to play with, and they genuinely want to spend more time at home.

What are U.S. consumers buying to have a good time at home? How are they using these products? Read on to find out how Americans’ love for nesting is affecting sales across the home, beauty, food, office supplies, tech, gaming, toys, sports, apparel, and video industries.

Have You Heard About Hygge?

Is there anything more enjoyable than a quiet night in, curled up in a blanket on the couch in your coziest sweats, with a cup of something nice and a binge-worthy TV show? There’s a name for such coziness, and it’s called hygge (pronounced "hue-guh"). This Danish-born term and trend refers to “the constant pursuit of homespun pleasures,” involving things like candlelight, fires, and fuzzy knitted socks. The essence of hygge is a feeling of comfort, well-being, safety, and togetherness. It’s no wonder the Danes are the happiest people on earth.

Retailers have tapped into this trend, with stores like Colorado-based Hygge Life and Minneapolis-based The Foundry Home Goods popping up around the country. They sell everything from candles to sheepskins to cashmere throws and natural wood adornments.

Coming out of the well-being movement, U.S. consumers are increasingly mindful of both their physical and emotional health and have fully caught this hygge bug. The proof is in the home industry’s 2016 growth. “Today’s consumers are spending more time in the home and are willing to spend more for products that will help enhance their home lifestyle,” said Joe Derochowski, executive director and home industry analyst at NPD. “Another key element of hygge is the casual style of home environments people are aspiring to create. U.S. consumers are seeking out a more relaxed and warm ambiance instead of formal surroundings,” Joe added.

Major home appliances experienced the most year-over-year growth of all home segments (think fridges and washing machines), followed by non-electric housewares (like portable beverageware and cookware), home environment appliances (think robo vacuums), personal care appliances (like electric tooth brushes and hairstyling tools), and small kitchen electronics (like fryers and coffeemakers). It’s worth noting that only four of our tracked industries grew in Holiday 2016 compared to Holiday 2015; two of these industries were small appliances and housewares. Bottom line—Americans want to create meaningful experiences in their homes, and products that help them keep clean, healthy, creative, and comfortable at home will come out on top.

Do a quick Google search of “hygge”, and inevitably candles pop up as crucial elements to creating cozy atmospheres, both for the aroma and light they emit. Scentiments, our suite of consumer insights and tools for the U.S. fragrance industry, allows us to take a deep dive on this trend. Our Scentiments online survey found almost half of respondents age 18 or older use scented home products to create an inviting atmosphere in their homes. Beauty industry analyst Kissura Craft said 77 percent of U.S. adults use some sort of scented home product, be it a candle, diffuser, linen spray, or air freshener. Home scents are the fastest-growing segment in fragrances, outpacing the other segments anywhere from 18 to 21 points in the 12 months ending February 2017. What types of candles do U.S. consumers fancy when they want to get hygge? Nest’s Holiday Candle, Jo Malone’s Lime Basil Mandarin Candle, and Diptyque’s 6.5 oz Baies Candle were the top three best-selling candles in the U.S. during this time period.

Home-Grown Eating

Americans are dining out less and eating at home more; 82 percent of all meals are sourced from home. But “regardless of whether we prepare food at home or purchase food from a restaurant, our preference is increasingly to eat it at home,” said our Food Industry Analyst, David Portalatin.

David explained that our National Eating Trends® survey data showed 76 percent of meals are eaten at home, regardless of where the food was sourced. Historically, lunch was the meal most likely eaten away from home, but now 51 percent of lunches are eaten at home. “The percentage of restaurant orders that originated from the workplace is at an all-time low, as people have moved back to home,” David explained.

Dinner is even more home-centric; 81 percent of dinner occasions are eaten at home. Even looking at dinner meals purchased at a restaurant, nearly half are eaten at home. Our forecast calls for restaurant delivery to increase by double digits by 2022 to meet this at-home demand. For any restaurant operators reading this, this means you’d better find the technology to get your prepared meals on the tables of American homes—and fast.

Why are people eating at home more? Part of it has to do with U.S. consumers tightening their wallets post-recession. But there’s something else going on here, David speculated. Americans genuinely want to eat at home more—because they can do so many other things at home now, too – they can work from home, shop from home, and be entertained by more entertainment content than ever, right at home. “This convenience allows for fewer trips out, so it just makes sense that they will eat at home more, too,” he explained.

Meals eaten at other people’s homes have increased as well. Between 2013 and 2015, the number of meals eaten at another person’s home wavered between 32 and 33 meals per person each year, on average. In 2016, this figure jumped by 19 percent to an average of 38 meals eaten at another person’s home over the course of the year, shown by our National Eating Trends® survey and custom research. David attributes this jump primarily to the dinner meal occasion, the most social meal occasion by far. And it all ties back to the hygge trend: living a life connected to loved ones. Eating at home more allows for a casual approach to quality time with friends that prioritizes comfort.

Work Hard…

More people working from home these days doesn’t just help the restaurant delivery business. It’s also had an enormous impact on the office supplies industry. Since a well-designed workplace can aid productivity, many Americans with flexible work-from-home schedules have made it a priority to create a home workspace that inspires creativity, focus, and rejuvenation, buying products that positively shape their work environment.

In the office supplies industry, this means retail sales outside of the back-to-school season shift toward the small and medium-sized business customer, including freelancers and home office workers. Office supplies industry analyst Leen Nsouli credits this trend to technology advancements, increased social connectedness, and alternative socio-economic systems. These systems have increased the number of freelancers and home office workers in the workforce and the need for a well-functioning at-home workspace. Whether online or in-store, these customers are shopping for office supplies and their business needs all year round.

Who are these at-home workers? As shown by our Understanding the Small Office and Home Office Consumer report (July 2016), they’re primarily small business owners in sales, arts and design, and business and financial roles. And many of them work for female-owned businesses. They purchase office supplies products a few times a year, on an as-needed basis, spending an average of $245 in a three-month period. They rank price as the number-one consideration when buying office supplies, and they are easily swayed to make impulse purchases when items are on sale.

What do these at-home workers buy? The top purchased items in the past three months include notebooks and other paper items, followed by writing items and general office, desk, and filing supplies. That’s so hygge—writing with real notebooks, pencils, and pens. Perhaps unsurprisingly, home office purchasers gravitate toward Amazon for their office supply purchases; nearly one-quarter purchase their office supplies from this e-tailer. But don’t be fooled—home office shoppers are very tactile in their purchases, with a higher likelihood to shop the brick-and-mortar side of office supply superstores like Office Depot and Staples. If they’re selecting a tape dispenser to occupy their precious at-home work space, it’dbetter be nice—and seeing the product in person guarantees it will meet their approval. Plus, sometimes a trip to the store can be a nice escape from the cocoon.

…Play Hard

TV for Days

After Americans emerge from their offices, what do they do for fun? Everyone knows that quality viewing time is key to nesting. But it’s no longer about live viewing. Once-popular TV shows’ ratings are down, as Millennials watch when they want, back in their cocoons. “The majority of U.S. homes subscribe to a streaming service such as Netflix, Amazon Video, or Hulu,” said our Connected Intelligence industry analyst, John Buffone. With multiple options available from industry leaders such as Google, Roku, Amazon and Apple, we expect 43 percent of U.S. Internet homes to own at least one streaming media player by the end of 2019. Specifically, we project 238 million installed devices will be connected to the Internet and able to deliver apps to TVs in 2019—a 59-percent hike from 2015 levels. That’s a lot of connected devices. We expect connected TVs and heavy streaming media players to drive this growth, per our NPD Connected Intelligence Connected Home Forecast.

Cocoons That Know You

There’s another technological draw to stay home besides streamed content. Technology Industry Analyst Stephen Baker explained that over the past few years, consumers at large have been spending more money on home-based technology like smart home devices, home networking, sound bars, broadband services, and voice-activated virtual assistants like Alexa and Google. These consumer expenses are growing faster than spending on mobile technologies like smartphones, accessories, cellular subscriptions, tablets, and notebooks. This trend may be cyclical, but it certainly fuels consumers’ decision to consume media content from home. Connected Intelligence President Eddie Hold supported this theory in describing the present as the “post-mobile era,” where mobile is no longer the absolute center of the tech universe.

Instead, our devices are primarily static devices within the home, and the ability for voice interface to work across all of these devices is driving demand for home automation products. Stephen predicts smart home will be the tech category best positioned to explode in 2017 due to its focus on hardware. The category grew by over $400 million in U.S. sales in 2016, and it is being propelled by products like Amazon Echo and Google Home, smart entry products, and a vast array of security camera makers. We’re living an experiential era, where consumers value doing things over having things, and people are investing in signature items and subscription entertainment providers that enhance their home and nesting lifestyle. They can sit at home, order more stuff for their homes with voice-activated smart speakers, tell Alexa to play their favorite Hygge playlist on Spotify, and while they’re at it, order a pizza, too.

Gaming: More Mobile Than You Thought

Though sales of video game hardware and software were down in 2016 compared to 2015, video game industry analyst Mat Piscatella acknowledged the “Netflixization” of gaming is happening, with services like Microsoft Xbox’s Game Pass and EA Access offering unlimited access to games for a monthly fee. Such a model encourages game-binging, a popular nesting pastime. And with streaming services like Twitch broadcasting more hours of viewed content than Netflix, gaming is as mainstream a medium as exists today.

Even so, it’s interesting to note that gaming behaviors have been decidedly more mobile than has consumer tech product usage. Mat explained that the rise in spending on mobile gaming suggests mobile is largely incremental to the overall gaming pie, especially with launches of hybrid console/portable devices (like the Nintendo Switch) that allow for both at-home and on-the-go gaming. “Gaming tries to make a cocoon for the player whether at home, on a plane, or waiting in line at the grocery store,” Mat mused. “It’s similar to mobile phones and headphones, both of which attempt to allow users to exist in their own cocoons when out in the world.”

Old-School Games and Crafts

If there’s anything we’ve learned from Holiday 2016, it’s that people are still into old-school games. Juli Lennett, our senior vice president and toys industry analyst, vouched for games/puzzles as the fastest-growing toy super category of 2016. “Games are HOT; the segment grew 21 percent in 2016, and 12 of the 13 games subclasses grew in 2016,” said Juli. She attributed this trend to Americans’ desire for fun experiences, especially when they can be shared with friends and family via social media. From adult games to electric games to family strategy games and dice and word games, let it be known that the American tradition of game night is far from dead! Whether it’s nostalgia for simpler times or a sweet escape from our world of screens, games are in vogue. And it doesn’t get more hyggelig than a night gathered around a coffee table playing Speak Out! or Uno with dear loved ones.

Another non-digital favorite? Coloring. Fueled by the adult coloring trend, colored pencil sets and coloring pages experienced the highest dollar sales growth in the U.S. office supplies industry in the 52 weeks ending February 25, 2017. Hygge is very much about emotional wellbeing and taking pleasure in the presence of gentle, soothing things—which screams adult coloring. “While living in a state of constant digital connectivity can be life-enhancing, it can also be stressful. It’s no wonder U.S. consumers are craving activities that bring them back to a feeling of quiet self-reflection and peace. Whether done alone or with friends, creative outlets like coloring, memory keeping, and journaling provide an escape and carve out a space for relaxation,” explained Leen Nsouli, our office supplies industry analyst.

Physical Wellbeing

Nesting is not just all about napping and Netflix. Though cocooning might conjure up images of homebody laziness and couch-centric activities, hygge living can occur inside or outdoors. In fact, a big part of hygge is taking care of the body with time outdoors. On the relaxation side of the spectrum, Outdoor and Sports Industry Analyst Matt Powell said “Hammocking”—going to a park with friends and hanging out in hammocks—is still a popular pastime, as proven by strong hammock category growth over the last few years. Millennials and consumers at large are embracing an outdoor lifestyle simply by being outside, while also appreciating the comforts of home.

The hygge life also incorporates physical fitness pursuits for physical and mental wellbeing. Whether this means going for a walk outside, or never having to leave home to attend a virtual spin class, nesting can balance the stagnant with the active.

From the Streets to the Couch

When you think of cocooning attire, pajamas come to mind as the ultimate cozy, fuzzy solution. However, Chief Industry Analyst Marshal Cohen said pajamas haven’t experienced the same growth this year as they did last. One category that has seen consistent growth is slippers. “Our consumer data shows the slipper category was up 8 percent in 2016, with growth stemming from men’s and kids slippers,” added Accessories and Footwear Analyst Beth Goldstein.

So what’s the preferred mode of attire for hanging out at home? Ironically—activewear. Stretchy athleisure pants also double as great TV watching getups. Marshal observed apparel “plays a huge role in not only street applications, but certainly in-home use. Which one of you doesn’t wear sweats around the house on the weekend or at night when you get home from work?” (Guilty.) Matt Powell echoed the sentiment that Americans like to dress like they’re working out, even when they aren’t. Bottom line: consumers don’t like to wear “real clothes” when they’re getting hyggelig, and activewear offers ultimate comfort and coziness.

Apparel industry analyst Maria Rugolo acknowledged that while dollar sales growth of women’s active apparel bottoms (AKA yoga pants) has slowed to 5 percent, women are still buying more of these products. For example, 118 million more women’s active bottoms sold in the 12 months ending February 2017 compared to sales just five years ago. This is “clearly showing that this apparel item is a part of [women’s] everyday lifestyle, and it is not about to go away,” Maria assured.

Are You Delivering Hygge?

Call it a form of escapism. Call it a slow movement. As a nation we’re indulging in some much-deserved “me time,” seeking out the comforts and safeties of our own domiciles. At a time when Americans savor experiences and human connection, “home” has become the intersection of these needs. Home offers a safe haven to refuel in times of turmoil. U.S. consumers are spending on things that allow them to curate comfortable surroundings. As a brand or retailer, are you offering them products that fulfill their highest hygge desires?

These were just some of our recent cocooning-specific retail insights across the home, beauty, food, office supplies, tech, gaming, toys, sports, apparel, and video industries. For other retail trends and insights, or information on how you can better measure performance for your categories, retailers, regions, or territories, visit our LinkedIn page, contact your NPD account representative, call 866-444-1411, or email contactnpd@npd.com

Get in on
NPD Insights!

Subscribe to our monthly email newsletter for the latest industry news and views. Get fresh data, analyst insights, case studies, and more.

Newsletter

Subscribe and get key market trends and insights relevant to your industry each month.

We will not sell your information. View our privacy policy.

Follow Us

© 2017 The NPD Group, Inc.