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.

Lockers for Your House: Innovations Following Trends in E-Commerce & Contact-Free Delivery

More people are ordering deliveries – groceries, restaurant meals, cat food, gardening supplies, etc. – than ever before.

Although more people are working or self-quarantining at home, some deliveries are still not completed (perhaps the homeowner was in the backyard and didn’t hear the doorbell, they were bathing the dog, they were trying to get the baby to nap, they were refereeing an argument between the kids, etc) to the great frustration of consumers. Additionally, many are still concerned about the security of their deliveries… especially if they are unable to make it to the door right away.

Instead relying on watching the door, an app notification, or your video doorbell to tell you when your delivery has arrived, more consumers are looking for alternatives. The DIY solution is large plastic totes with signs noting to place deliveries inside. However, those are still not secure.

People who live in multiunit dwellings might have a central package storage area manned by a doorman or other office personnel. Delivery lockers are also increasingly common in urban areas. Despite the deployment of package pickup lockers at third party retailers and other parcel pickup stores in suburban areas, they are not widely available and not generally popular where they are offered as it requires leaving home to retrieve your delivery.

The solution being tested more broadly are home-based, weather-resistant, secure outdoor storage boxes. Some, like BoxLock, can be opened if the delivery person scans the packages barcode into the lock, while others can be opened with one-time numerical, QR, or other types of codes provided by the homeowner.

The increasing delivery need and the ongoing developments in home security options will lead to even more innovations in this area.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Global E-Commerce Packaging and Safety & Security Alarms.  Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Packaging      Services    

Pandemic Leading to Innovations & Opportunities in Food Processing, from Automation to Advanced Worker Safety Measures

Meat processing plants have become hot points in the spread of the coronavirus at home and abroad. This is partly due to the fact that it is a labor-intensive process and in most plants workers are stationed close together, often in refrigerated spaces. In fact, worker density in meat processing plants is 3 times higher than the US manufacturing average and, unlike most manufacturing operations, worker density has increased over the past five years.

Many meat processors have had to periodically close plants for cleaning and to allow workers time to quarantine and recover following a local outbreak. This is costly and damaging to the company’s reputation, not to mention the challenge it puts to the food supply chain.

As a result, meat processing plants have implemented more frequent COVID-19 testing and contact tracing. Some have workers in “bubbles” so that positive cases no longer endanger workers in a whole plant, but rather a segment of a shift. Others have developed plastic shields in between worker stations to limit contact between workers on the same production line.

More advanced measures include increased automation. For instance, Tyson has invested about $500 million over the past three years in automation efforts and the company’s CEO noted that these efforts will likely increase. Tyson’s Manufacturing Automation Center opened in August 2019 and has been working on developing the equipment and technology needed to accelerate the transition from human workers to robots that can do butchering tasks. Although technology has not yet caught up to the speed and efficiency of a human worker, the push to automate goes beyond the coronavirus pandemic. The industry is a dangerous one for workers and it is increasingly hard to find workers to do these jobs.

Expect this transition to automation to speed up in this and other industries. The implementation of 5G technology will contribute to these developments.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Global Food Processing Machinery and its related COVID-19 Economic Impact Report: Global Food Processing Machinery.  Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage    

Smart Camera Analytics to Become Useful in More Ways

Can a camera help a retail or other public facility comply with local safety guidelines? Hanwha Techwin has released AI-based features that do not require a server, but run directly through their P-Series AI cameras. These smart features can

  • keep track of occupancy, noting the count of people as they enter and exit
  • check temperatures of customers, contact-free
  • detect whether or not people passing by the camera are wearing face masks properly

This system is designed to process data from multiple cameras in a system, keeping count of entry and exit from multiple points.

The system is also able to provide warnings when noncompliance is noted or to work with signage to let customers know when occupancy is low enough to allow entrance. 

Hanwha Techwin has also made face mask detection features available for the company’s X-series of cameras.

This level of innovation is likely to increase as retail outlets, restaurants, office buildings, public facilities, and other high-traffic locations look for easy ways to open more safely and with limited confrontation. Those already open have found it challenging to police mask wearing and to ask customers to wait for occupancy to be at safe levels. Some have used current staff and others have hired security guards to perform this service.

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, including Global Security Services, US Private Security Services, and Safety & Security Alarms.  Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Security    

Disinfectants Being Tested on COVID-19, Specifically

On July 6, the EPA approved the first surface disinfectant products specifically tested on COVID-19. Two products -- Lysol Disinfectant Spray and Lysol Disinfectant Max Cover Mist – were found to be effective against SARS-CoV-2. Other products are now being tested and additional pronouncements are expected in the coming weeks.

In the meantime, all the products listed on the EPA’s “List N” meet the criteria for effectiveness against COVID-19 because of effectiveness against other coronaviruses, even if they haven’t yet been specifically tested on this virus. 

In order to be as effective as designed and affirmed in testing, users must carefully follow the products’ label indications regarding dwell time and other requirements.

For more information, see The Freedonia Group’s COVID-19 impact reports on Surface Disinfectant Wipes and Global Industrial & Institutional Disinfectants & Sanitizers. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Chemicals      Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

June Retail Sales Report: Fast Growth From a Low Base

The June advance monthly retail sales report was released on July 16. One thing worth noting -- for the uninitiated -- is that this information is linked to sales by type of retail outlet, but that doesn’t fully align with sales of product categories in some cases. For instance, sales of sporting and recreation goods might be lower than one would expect because the data only count sales at stores that primarily sell these products and do not include items in this category that are sold at mass merchants like Walmart and Target, whose sales are classified elsewhere.

The June report show that the big winners overall continue to be the same ones from last month, however, even as they continue to show strength against same month 2019 sales, they are off May 2020 highs:

  • grocery/food retail stores (-1.2% from May 2020, but +12.4% from June 2019)
  • building materials/garden equipment dealers (-0.3% from May 2020, but +17.3% from June 2019)
  • retailers that operate outside of brick-and-mortar locations (including e-commerce not linked to conventional stores) (-2.4% from May 2020, but +23.5% from June 2019)

These are retailers that, for the most part, remained open during stay-at-home orders because they were considered “essential” businesses. Additionally, their product mix includes categories that continue to benefit from the shift toward staying home – e.g., home cooking over eating out and DIY home and garden improvements.   

The new big area -- coinciding with reopening as well as the rise in staycations and backyard play installations -- is sporting goods, hobby, musical instruments & book stores. This category is +26.5% from May 2020, and also +20.6% from June 2019.

Several other categories are also showing big gains over very low May sales levels, even though they are still seriously lagging 2019 same-month sales. Coinciding with the ongoing reopening of these locations. These businesses include:

  • furniture stores (+32.5% from May 2020, but -3.5% from June 2019)
  • gas stations (+37.4% from May 2020, but -19.1% from June 2019)
  • clothing stores (+105.1% from May 2020, but -23.2% from June 2019)
  • foodservice (+20% from May 2020, but -26.3% from June 2019)

Economists and other interested parties – including Freedonia analysts – will be closely monitoring next month’s retail sales report to see the strength of sales growth for July, looking for the impact of the resurgence in infections, mask mandates, and reclosures of some businesses in some states/municipalities.

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 COVID-19 with a comparison to historical recessions. Food- and beverage-related reports are also available from our sister publisher, Packaged Facts. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19