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.

Top Themes For the Inside the Home: 2021

  • Comfort – Despite rising vaccination rates, most people still aren’t venturing wide into the world. Many homeowners are looking for ways to be more comfortable at home…from lounge-worthy furniture, indulgent bedding, live plants, and dimmable/mood lighting to radiant heating floors and massaging shower heads. According to the February-March edition of The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey, 60% of respondents indicated they were currently buying products to make staying at home more comfortable, so this market opportunity remains large.
  • Rooms – Our love affair with the open concept floor plan isn’t over yet, but more homeowners are looking to better define their spaces and, heaven forbid, add walls so that multiple people working at home or different family activities going on at the same time don’t interfere with one another.
  • Video Conference Accommodations – Most people don’t have the pressure of the Room Rater twitter account calling out their background for their work-a-day video conferences. Still, setting up a professional looking or pleasant background with attractive lighting (or at least not backlighting or glare), plants (live or faux), and appropriate art has become a priority for more people working from home, particularly as more expect to do so for the long haul. In the February-March edition of The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey, 46% indicated that they were still working from home or away from their normal work space because of the pandemic.
  • Sustainability – Most improvements these days are taking sustainability into account. Key options include better insulating windows, high efficiency appliances, water efficient plumbing, using natural/renewable materials, incorporating space for recycling or composting, and adding indoor “kitchen gardens”.

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 and Consumer Goods areas, with titles such as Residential Lighting Fixtures; Live Goods: Plants, Trees, & Shrubbery; Flooring; Global Major Household Appliances; and Plumbing Fixtures & Fittings; and Freedonia Focus titles such as Household Furniture: United States and Office Furniture: United States. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Construction & Building Products      Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

Garden Gnomes & Landscaping Whimsy

Although the shortage of garden gnomes might be a uniquely British response to the pandemic gardening trend, the idea behind it is more universal. More people are looking to add some fun and cheer to their outdoor space in any way they can after a year of being largely relegated to their homes for work and recreation.

Americans are not as traditionally into gnomes and statuary as British gardeners are, but homeowners looking to adopt some European charm or to add whimsical elements to their yard might consider garden gnomes (which are not in shortage in the US, even cheeky turns on the tradition) or other statuary. Colored garden lights or lanterns, fairy garden elements, topiaries, wind chimes, decorative garden stakes, and colorful outdoor cushions, rugs, and planters could be other takes on a similar need for fun in our yards.

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 and Consumer Goods areas, with titles such as Outdoor Lighting Fixtures, Outdoor Kitchens, Outdoor Furniture & Grills, Wood & Competitive Decking, Landscaping Products, Lawn & Garden Consumables, and Home & Garden Pesticides. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

Pandemic Grocery Gains Were Not Experienced Equally: Private Labels Took a Hit

Private label – also known as store-branded and generic – products have been seeing growth in recent years. Stores saw value in investing in their own brands and consumers were looking for value. The increasing introduction of higher-end private label items that moved beyond the basics also helped by boosting the average sale price of store-branded products.

However, these firms did not all see the huge pandemic retail grocery gains that the major food and beverage brands saw. Supply chain challenges and the cost-driven lack of flexibility built into their systems made it harder for them to respond to the sudden surges in demand that came as people shifted their food dollars from restaurants to retail.

In some cases, consumers sought traditional branded products to provide some level of certainty and comfort in uncertain times. However, more often than not, people bought what they could get. Because there were supply chain issues and low inventories, shoppers had to buy whichever oatmeal, peanut butter, frozen waffles, canned veggies, etc. that they could obtain. Even dedicated store brand value-based shoppers shifted to branded versions when no other option was available. This was one of the reasons why the average shopping basket price was up in 2020...sales of more branded products and fewer private label versions.

However, that trend is expected to shift back as private label suppliers increase their capacity shortages and improve their supply chains. Branded food product suppliers will need to offer unique options or other elements to retain value-driven shoppers who will shift back to price-based choices when the options are there.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Packaging area, with titles such as Frozen Food Packaging, Ice Cream & Frozen Dessert Packaging, Fresh Produce Packaging, Processed Food Pouches, Candy & Snack Food Pouches, Egg Cartons, Vacuum Skin Packaging, and Meat, Poultry, & Seafood Packaging. Further analysis in Food & Beverage research is also available from our sister publisher Packaged Facts, with titles such as Home Baking: US Market Trends & Opportunities, Food Market Outlook, Beverage Market Outlook, Meal Kits, Global Meat & Poultry Trends, and Global Breakfast Cereal. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Packaging    

Higher Than Expected Increases in Housing Starts Shows Market Strength

As has been chronicled many times on this site, a somewhat unexpected result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a surge in demand for new housing. Nor has demand for housing abated, even as an increasing number of the US population is vaccinated and cities and states lift or loosen the shutdown orders that made the densely populated urban cores much less enjoyable in which to live. Indeed, many Americans have decided that now is the time to buy a home of their own, even despite:

  • a shortage of existing homes for sale, which has driven up the price of homes on the market
  • record-high lumber prices, which can add between $10,000 and $25,000 to the cost of constructing a new home
  • supply chain difficulties that have caused shortages of a wide range of building materials and other items – such as appliances – needed to outfit a newly erected home

Thus, the recent news that housing starts for the month of March were higher than expected is unquestionably good for not only potential home buyers but the construction industry as a whole. Builders are continuing to work to boost output of new homes, knowing that units can be quickly sold once they are placed on the market.

For the construction industry, continuing growth in housing starts will mean that demand for building materials will remain high, particularly of such products as:

  • softwood lumber and engineered wood products, such as plywood and OSB
  • drywall
  • siding
  • roofing materials and such accessories as underlayment
  • cabinetry
  • plumbing fixtures and fittings
  • pipe
  • flooring materials

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 and Consumer Goods areas. 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.


March Retail Sales Report: Clues to Post-Pandemic Splurges?

The release of the March retail sales report by the US Department of Commerce is offering clues to our post-pandemic shopping trends. March was a month benefiting from the release of stimulus checks as well as increasing vaccination rates, providing both the funds and the motivation to spend, including on things we collectively hadn’t been buying much of over the past year.

Sporting goods stores had the largest gain in March, jumping 23.5% from February, proving that outdoor and exercise gear remains popular. However, clothing stores saw a large gain as well, rising 18.3% over February levels and a dramatic recovery from March 2020 which indicated the start of the pandemic in the US and the steep decline of apparel shopping. Particular areas of interest include swimwear and resort wear. Not only are people planning for long delayed vacations, but summer is coming. Additionally, resort wear offers a colorful and fun yet breezy and still comfortable alternative to our pandemic sweats and pajamas. Shoes are also seeing strong sales. All that pandemic walking has us burning through trainers/tennies like crazy. However, with all the planning for a more in-person world, summer sandals and comfortable slides are seeing gains too.

Spending at gas stations and at food services and drinking places (up 10.9% and 13.4% over February 2021 levels, respectively) are additional indications that many Americans are resuming travel, commuting, and visits to restaurants and bars.

April retail sales will give us even more hints of what post-pandemic spending will look like in the near term as more of the US population becomes fully vaccinated.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research and our sister publisher Packaged Facts’ research on the pet, food & beverage, and payment cards industries. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19