US & Global Economic Impact Analysis and Forecasts

Freedonia analysts and economists are sharing their insights on how major events are impacting different parts of the US and global economies.

Is the Front Porch the New Back Yard in the COVID-19 Era?

Front porches are seeing a lot more traffic in the COVID-19 era as consumers reimagine how and where they entertain and socialize. Though “porching” was growing in popularity prior to the pandemic, it is now the only way for some consumers to safely get out their pent up desire to go out without leaving home. Overlooking passersby and neighbors doing yard work, the front porch has always been a great place to socialize and meet new people. But in these unconventional times, the front porch is being used in unconventional ways, including as cocktail lounge, dance club, movie theater, recital hall, and karaoke bar.

In addition to bringing communities together, this trend is creating opportunities for suppliers of products such as outdoor furniture, lighting, heating elements, and landscaping products like pots and planters. Historically, these products have seen more intensive use in the back yard, where there’s usually more space to accommodate outdoor living areas. However, as consumers continue spending more time on their front porches, they are likely to increase their spending on products that enhance the comfort and functionality of those porches.

For more information and discussion of opportunities in outdoor living trends, check out the Freedonia Group’s publications Outdoor Furniture & Grills, including the Outdoor Furniture & Grills COVID-19 Economic Impact Report; Landscaping Products; and Global Pools & Spas. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Construction & Building Products      Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

Changes Abound with Salad Bars & Other Prepared Foods Sections in Grocery Stores

Freedonia’s National Online Consumer Survey conducted in April and May 2020 found 74% of respondents saying they are minimizing time spend shopping and browsing in stores because of the coronavirus and 43% are buying groceries online more. These both indicate that opportunities exist in developing solutions that allow shoppers to get in and out of stores quickly and to minimize contact with store staff and other customers.

Along these lines, grocers have been making changes to their stores, including their prepared foods offerings:

  • Grocery stores have shut down self-serve salad, soup, and other food bars. Some moved this type of food behind the deli counter (where a store worker can put the chosen food into containers) or offering it only in sealed to-go containers.
  • Grocery stores have begun offering meals prepared by local restaurants, appealing to consumers who want a break from increased home cooking but aren’t yet ready to return to restaurants.
  • Some grocers are using vending machines for fresh food, particularly for foods that might otherwise require interaction with a store worker
  • Chowbotics is marketing its Sally robot – which can assemble made-to-order salads or other such food options – as an alternative to self-service salad bars in grocery stores and elsewhere
  • Saladworks is among the restaurants opening franchise kiosks within grocery stores to take the place of self-serve food bars

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including new reports on Global Foodservice and Global Foodservice Single-Use Products. Additional information is also available in food reports available from The Freedonia Group’s sister publisher Packaged Facts, including Food Carryout & Delivery, Food Carryout & Delivery: Special COVID-19 Consumer Insights, and Food Market Outlook 2020: Home Cooking & Grocery Shopping in the Age of Coronavirus. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage    

Senior Housing Market Adjusting to Post COVID-19 Reality

Until a few months, one of the more lucrative construction markets was that of senior housing. The rising population of older Americans – many of whom are relatively affluent – offered builders and other construction professionals with an opportunity to housing that provided the features for aging-in-place without necessarily sacrificing comfort or aesthetics. Many of these housing units were in senior communities that catered to the needs of the older Americans – some residences provided assistance to those with medical needs, while others simply offered seniors such social amenities as group outings and cultural events.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Almost overnight, facilities that were once heralded as the pinnacle of senior living were regarded with suspicion as sickness and fatalities entered the picture. Many Americans tried to move older adults out of these residences, while potential future tenants stayed away. Indeed, a recent report shows just how deep the damage was to this sector: residency rates at assisted living and other similar facilities saw record low levels in May 2020.

Will the industry rebound?  Many are guardedly optimistic, citing:

  • the ongoing need for assisted living as more Americans grow older and require some level of help – while preferring to remain as independent as possible
  • the expectation that the COVID-19 will eventually recede
  • a high level of interest among “active adults” in living in communities better suited to their needs
  • industry efforts to ensure the health and safety of residents and workers, such as by adopting strict quarantine, visiting, and social distancing policies

For more information about senior housing and assisted living, check out the Freedonia Group’s publication, Elder Care Services in the US.  For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including an expanding catalog of COVID-19 Economic Impact reports, which highlight how various industries are responding to the current crisis with a comparison to recent recessions. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Construction & Building Products      Covid-19      Services    

Survey Results Imply Strong Post-COVID-19 Home Improvement Market

For the many building construction professionals struggling through the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, there appears to be at least light at the end of the horizon – namely, the expectation that many Americans, having been cooped up in their homes for months on end, will undertake home improvement projects to fix issues those things that are now glaring deficiencies.

A recent survey by LightStream would imply that this assumption is correct, with nearly three-quarters of US homeowners planning on undertaking a home improvement project this year. Indeed, according to the survey, more Americans are planning on starting a project than canceling one.

As for the type of project, outdoor improvements were the most popular, with nearly half of respondents desiring that work. This is no surprise to Freedonia Group analysts, who previously noted the surging interest in pools as parents looked for ways to entertain their children – equally cooped up in the home with school-from-home a new reality. Other projects of interest to homeowners include:

  • general home repairs
  • painting (a quick impact project seen as a doable DIY project for most people)
  • bathrooms (with everyone home during the day, adding or expanding a bathroom suddenly makes more sense!)
  • kitchen remodeling (with more Americans eating at home, people suddenly realized how they could make their kitchens more functional and attractive)

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Construction and Building Products area and Global E-Commerce. Freedonia also offers an expanding catalog of COVID-19 Economic Impact reports, which highlight how various industries are responding to the current crisis with a comparison to recent recessions. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Restaurant Industry Continues to Evolve in Face of COVID-19 Pandemic

Perhaps no industry has been changed and challenged by the coronavirus pandemic as much as that of the US restaurant industry.  From fast-food to fine dining, restaurants have seen their entire business fundamentally changed in a few weeks – and only to change again as more and more states declare themselves “open” and have eased restrictions.

For many restaurants, being “open” has entailed large investments in a wide range of products to meet new safety guidelines. Such items as plastic shields, gloves, face masks, paper towel dispensers, disposable condiment packages, and vast quantities of hand sanitizer are now the new reality at nearly every dining establishment in the US. In many cases acquiring these items has been a challenge for restaurants, as most eateries – allowed only to do takeout and delivery business – barely made enough to cover basic operating expenses. Now, they face the daunting task of re-opening – often with diminished seating capacity – while spending more on needed safety equipment.

One way in which restaurants can boost sales is to promote their catering operations.  As more and more workers return to their offices, it is felt that firms will use food as a way to boost attendance and morale – who passes up a free lunch?  Moreover, at many establishments – medical facilities, warehouses, construction sites – workers never left, thereby providing yet another potential avenue to meet customers. While there are challenges – making large quantities of food quickly, delivery, investing in the disposables need to package meals – many restaurants will conclude that it may be easier – and just as profitable – to bring the food to the customer in this era of COVID-19 safety.

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s reports on Foodservice Single-Use Products, Retail Bags, Global Foodservice, and our sister publisher Packaged Facts’ reports including Food Carryout & Delivery and Food Carryout & Delivery: Special COVID-19 Consumer Insights.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage