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.

Which Types of COVID-Related Trends Will Stick Around?

One of the questions we get around here all the time is this: which of the things we started doing because of the pandemic will we continue doing after the pandemic?

We believe that it falls into two basic steps

  1. It should be a worthwhile element of our new normal of hygiene and disease transmission awareness
  2. It should also have some additional benefit beyond pandemic protection

First, the “stickier” trends will form a functional part of our new normal of heightened awareness of hygiene and potential disease transmission. But what is the level of the new normal in the US and how much of what we’re doing will last in the longer run?

For a point of comparison, look at major security events like the attacks at the Oklahoma City Federal Building in 1995 and the 9-11 attacks in 2001. Immediately following both events, government and businesses made the sort of safety and security changes that were easy to do and could be implemented with little major building investments. Those major investments came later. However, after a time, some of the immediate fears and feeling of urgency ebbed so we slid back into activities and investment levels that were closer to what we had done before, but still at an elevated level of safety and security that represented a new normal level of investment.

We are likely to see the same curve in COVID-related investments and innovations. Activity will peak while the pandemic is live. Then it will ease as the pandemic recedes from our memory and day-to-day experience. However, we will continue to operate at a higher level of concern about hygiene and communicable disease transmission. This is similar to the experience of countries that have experienced pandemics in the modern era.

Second, stickier trends will have other benefits outside of the pandemic. These things will make our lives easier or will add convenience in some way. Examples of these types of trends include

  • Online Grocery Shopping & Food Delivery. Many people considered these services a luxury before the pandemic. However, many people tried it because of the pandemic and people found it easy to do and a convenience, so it has benefits beyond just making social distancing easier.
  • Touchless Technologies. Some things such as touchless faucets and motion-detecting light switches were already seeing adoption for water or electricity conservation and have the additional benefit of reducing high-touch surfaces. Others, such as foot taps to call an elevator or automatic entry systems that use a smart phone or other touch-free credential to open doors are also simply functional improvements on predecessor

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research. 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.

  Covid-19    

School Meals To-Go

With more school districts opting to begin the year using online other remote education practices, food pantries and other hunger support agencies are looking at ways to be sure that families eligible for meals will get them. For instance, Chicago Public Schools will continue to offer grab-and-go meals to students. Other major urban districts are making the same steps as are a growing number of suburban and rural districts.

There are efforts in progress (including the proposed Pandemic Child Hunger Prevention Act) to expand eligibility so that organizations could spend more time providing the food resources without spending additional time verifying student elibility.

This will be another opportunity for packaging companies. While in-school meals are often served in disposable dinnerware with plastic flatware, a growing number of schools had been opting for reusable options that reduce the amount of paper and plastic waste generated. The pandemic put a pause in that effort as school meals must now more closely resemble restaurant carryout. Key products will include clamshell containers, paper wraps, disposable flatware, and bags. Some districts may look to increase confidence in the hygiene of the meals by using tamper-evident food packaging options as well.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in Packaging and in our sister publisher Packaged Facts’ Food & Beverage research catalog. 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.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Services    

Increasing Interest in Cabinet Refacing Reflects Complexities of COVID-19 Remodeling Market

A recent article highlighted the strong growth in sales of N-Hance, a firm that provides refacing services for cabinetry, wood floors, doors, and furnishing. The company, which can either use a proprietary process to remove dirt and particulates from surfaces, or completely change their surface look, has seen demand for its services rise as many homeowners – spending more time in their residences – decide that it is time to change the look of their kitchens and other rooms of the house.

However, this growth in sales demonstrates another facet of this COVID-19 economy –  namely, that while interest in home renovations remains high, many homeowners – beset by furloughs and job losses, as well as general economic uncertainty – do not have the financial means to undertake large-scale home renovations. These consumers are increasing looking to firms such as N-Hance to provide more modest (and budget-friendly) home improvement services.

Going forward, companies that can provide less expensive home renovations will continue to see sales gains as cost-conscious consumers look to upgrade their homes for minimal expense, such as:

  • Refacers of cabinetry
  • Companies that resurface countertops, such as by granite or engineer stone veneers
  • Firms that install new bathtubs and shower surrounds in existing bathrooms
  • Painting contractors
  • Firms that specialize in installing LVT or flooring with click-based installation systems

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. 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.


Toilet Paper Is Back…But Where Are the Wipes

When the pandemic first hit the US, virtually all consumer paper products – from toilet paper to facial tissues to paper towels to wipes – were suddenly in high demand as consumers sought to stock up ahead of self-isolating and stay-at-home orders. Shortages ensued. However, even though many stores still have limits on the number each such product a customer may purchase in a single shopping trip, most of these goods are once again readily available…all, that is, except wipes.

Surface disinfecting wipes from Clorox, Lysol, and others vanished from store shelves in March and have yet to return in any significant way despite capacity expansion efforts from suppliers. Production has first been earmarked for hospitals, caregivers, and commercial users, and there hasn’t been enough product left over for retail sales.

We likely won’t see wipes reliably on retail shelves until next year. According to Clorox company president and CEO-elect, Linda Rendle, "Given the fact cold and flu (season) sits in the middle of the (fiscal) year, and we expect the pandemic to be with us for the entirety of the year, it will take the full year to get up to the supply levels that we need to be at."

So what gives?

  • Polyester spunlace, a frequent base for consumer-grade disinfecting wipes, is also used for masks and medical gowns, which are also in high demand.
  • Companies have prioritized liquid bleach and other disinfecting cleaning products that do not have supply chain
  • Stricter and increased cleaning protocols have led to extraordinarily high demand for surface disinfecting wipes at medical facilities, senior living communities, daycare centers, schools, businesses, and retail outlets.

What do you do in the meantime?

  • Get on wait lists: some retail stores keep a list to notify customers when a shipment of surface disinfecting wipes arrive
  • Make your own.
  • Be flexible about brands. Wipes are sometimes available in store brands or other less well-known brands. Just make sure they are made with EPA-registered disinfectants.
  • Use spray cleaners along with separate paper towels or washable rags.

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.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Textiles & Nonwovens    

Elevator Concerns in the Era of Coronavirus

A large portion of the population is concerned about riding in elevators in the age of coronavirus. Building owners worry that if employees and others are afraid to ride elevators (to get to work or their homes), they will see occupants break their leases and a  subsequent spike in building vacancies.

To provide a safer elevator environment, the Center for Disease Control recommends a few basic steps be taken in multifamily facilities, and these measures also apply for commercial buildings:

  • cleaning and disinfecting shared areas such as elevators using EPA-registered disinfectants more than once a day, if possible
  • minimizing traffic in enclosed spaces such as elevators
  • providing alcohol-based sanitizers in common areas, including outside elevators

In general, however, elevators are well-ventilated spaces with fans that run to keep the air refreshed. Additionally, most people are only in elevators for a few moments. Thus the duration of any potential exposure is short, well below the 15 minutes that is generally considered the threshold for exposure could lead to enough viral load to spread COVID-19.

According to The Freedonia Group’s National Online Consumer Survey conducted in May 2020, 79% of adults agreed that the coronavirus is a health threat to them personally, and 86% agreed that it is a health threat to their family and friends. These people will look to building owners to help instill more confidence that large buildings are safe to navigate.

Additional steps to mitigate public worry that are recommended by elevator companies and being undertaken by some building owners include:

  • requiring masks be worn in common areas such as elevators
  • limiting elevator occupancy to a level that allows for appropriate social distancing
  • recommending businesses and other occupants stagger their arrival times
  • installing signage that suggests occupants refrain from talking while riding elevators and face away from other riders

For more information, see the following data-rich market analysis reports from The Freedonia Group’s off-the-shelf research catalog, including Global Elevators, Global Filters, Global Housing, Consumer Air Treatment, and HVAC Equipment, as well as Focus Reports including Commercial Banking: United States and Professional Services: United States. 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