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.

What Tells You Things Are Heading Back to “Normal”?

Instacart recently released a blog entry talking about something they are calling “the Pudding Pack Index.” The company suggests that increased orders of classic lunchbox items like pudding packs, granola bars, and fruit snacks are solid indicators that the US economy is returning to normalcy – a sign that kids are going to school or camps, that families are going on vacations (particularly road trips), and parents are returning to their workplace.

Our economy is full of such informal modes of evaluation. For instance, a former FEMA director suggested the “Waffle House Index” – or the ability for local Waffle House restaurants to be operating – is a good indication of the severity of storm event.

So what other core indicators might we look at now that could portend a return to normal?

  • Vaccine Rates: That’s an obvious one…vaccinated people are more comfortable resuming their previous habits and can better do so safely, even if the adjustment may not be rapid due to newly formed habits or ongoing concerns about variants or unvaccinated family members
  • Brick & Mortar Store Traffic: Now, many people are likely to retain their online shopping out of convenience and new habits, but returns to in-person shopping indicate normalization
  • Office Occupancy Rates: The return – at least partially – of workers who shifted home during the pandemic would boost traffic at foodservice restaurants and aid the sagging commercial real estate industry
  • Miles Driven: Increases here would indicate more people commuting to work and more people traveling
  • Improvements in Retail Apparel Sales: Once we decide to set aside our pandemic athleisure and start buying fresh outfits for special events, evenings out, and professional looks, we’re planning for a life away from our couches and home offices

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Automotive & Transport      Construction & Building Products      Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Food & Beverage      Packaging      Services      Textiles & Nonwovens    

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    

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    

March Retail Sales Report: Surge in Sales by Building Materials & Garden Supply Retailers

The release of the March retail sales report by the US Department of Commerce showed that building materials and garden equipment and supplies retailers had an especially strong month, reporting sales gains of over 40% compared to February. Furthermore, March sales were more than 20% higher than those reported last year.

Sales increases by building materials and garden equipment and supplies retailers were due to a number of factors, key among them:

  • restocking by contractors and other construction professionals in preparation of the spring construction season
  • moderate weather throughout much of the US, which allowed by contractors and DIYers to get an early start on new projects
  • continuing demand for new housing, boosting sales of lumber, engineered wood, fasteners, and power tools – all of which are frequently purchased at big box retailers
  • elevated prices for lumber, construction fasteners, and plumbing pipe and fittings needed for a wide range of building projects
  • homeowners purchasing new lawn mowers and tractors and other related equipment in anticipation of a new season of yardwork

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.

  Construction & Building Products      Consumer Goods      Covid-19