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.

Summer is Coming…Vacci-cation, Anyone?

Through the coronavirus pandemic, many workers with paid time off benefits chose to hoard their time off: waiting for economic or job stability…waiting for events to resume…waiting for resorts to reopen…waiting for international travel to open up or become easier…waiting for enough of a sense of safety to explore and gather.

2020 was a time of backyard staycations. Homeowners installed pools, patios, fire pits, outdoor movie screens, and outdoor kitchens. They nurtured gardens and bought comfy furniture and portable heaters. They made their yards a place to gather safely and entertain the kids as summer camps and sports leagues were restricted or closed.

Now that more people are getting vaccinated and restrictions on traveling and gathering are loosening, what kind of summer can we expect for 2021?

  • PTO will be used. People are feeling more confident and those who have PTO benefits will enjoy at least some of it this year with extended weekend holidays and longer trips.
  • We won’t fully unplug. Remote work will enable some to relocate for longer periods to combine work and play in a vacation setting.
  • Staycations will stay. Those who couldn’t get a pool or other sought-after summer item in 2020 will likely have better luck finding it this year. Additionally, while most children are still not yet able to be vaccinated, many families remain reluctant to travel or reengage in sports leagues or other camps
  • Gardens are back. Some pandemic habits will remain as spring spending at lawn and garden retailers indicate many are planning to keep their gardens going or start new ones in 2021.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, particularly in the Consumer Goods areas, including Outdoor Furniture & Grills; Freedonia Focus Reports such as Amusement Parks: United States and Travel Services: United States; and Packaged Facts reports such as Home Food Gardening: US Market Trends & Opportunities and Food Carryout & Delivery. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Automotive & Transport      Consumer Goods      Covid-19      Services    

Home Improvement: Not Just for the DIY Sector; Hot Ultra High-End Housing Market Caused a Boom Also

The home improvement boom relating to the pandemic hasn’t just been DIYers spending their stimulus checks and adapting their space to remote work and school or to backyard vacations. The ultra-rich bought getaway homes, investment homes, and get-out-of-the-city homes just because they could.

Not only have they been investing in remodeling homes they already have, these newly purchased homes were refreshed and adapted to the new owners’ style and preferences. The pandemic made all – including the ultra-wealthy – reconsider the spaces where they lived. A robust stock market, interest in moving to tax-friendly states, a shift away from major urban centers, and people reconsidering their lifestyle are among the factors that drove this boom.

The result: months long waits for things such as commercial-grade high-end appliances, custom-built furniture, and even designer and contractor services. Additionally, the wealthy are not immune to the ongoing lumber shortage, when construction is required.

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, including Flooring, Carpets & Rugs, General Purpose Lighting Fixtures, and Outdoor Furniture & Grills, and Freedonia Focus Reports such as Real Estate: United States, Window Coverings: United States, Household Furniture: United States, Furniture: United States, and Furniture & Furnishings: United States. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


  Construction & Building Products      Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

Boosted by Pandemic-Era Trends, Germany Registers Record Breaking E-Bike Sales in 2020; An Opening for the US Market Too?

The highly competitive German e-bike market – the second largest worldwide behind China – turned in a record breaking performance in 2020. Despite the severe economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Zweirad-Industrie-Verband (ZIV) reports that sales of e-bikes grew 43% in 2020 to reach 2.0 million units.

The 2020 performance represents an acceleration of a trend that has been occurring for a decade: German riders of conventional bicycles and some internal combustion engine scooters and mopeds are moving to e-bikes. Consumers are attracted by the superior performance and greater convenience compared to bicycles, as well as the fact that e-bikes cost less than mopeds and scooters. Over time, the performance gap between e-bikes and mopeds and scooters has also shrunk as high-end and specialty e-bikes developed for Germany.

The COVID-19 pandemic led to the implementation of restrictions on both businesses and people. Use of public transportation decreased sharply and other modes of transport were also became less appealing (e.g., ride-sharing, taxis). In addition, consumers increasingly looked for new forms of recreation following the closures of many bars, restaurants, clubs, and similar businesses.

The 2020 spike in e-bike sales will have a long-term impact on the German market because many new e-bikes users are likely to continue to participate in the activity for many years. E-bikes in particular are well suited for older riders because of their light weight and ease of use. German consumers generally prefer high-performance models and, as consumer awareness grows, technological innovation will accelerate.

Some of these same trends have held true in the US market, presenting opportunities here as well. For instance, 38% of respondents to The Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey (conducted February – March 2021) noted that they were using public transportation less because of the coronavirus pandemic and 31% noted that they were using taxi and ride-share services less because of the pandemic. Though some of these reductions may have been due to reductions in overall travel and commute time, such trends present an opening for other types of transportation to take root, particularly low-cost options for shorter trips.

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

  Automotive & Transport      Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Support Demand for Home Furnishings

That US consumers have invested considerable in their homes during the coronavirus is no surprise to regular readers of this blog, as we have regularly pointed out the continuing surge in home remodeling activity. Homeowners – such as those with excess time or money on their hands, or those replacing vacations with “staycations” – have taken to remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, adding home offices and gyms, and installing pools and decks to enhance their residences.

In addition to all of these remodeling projects, US consumers have also been buying furniture – either as part of a more complete home renovation or as a less costly alternative to a more complex project. For instance, among the respondents to the Freedonia Group National Online Consumer Survey (conducted February – March 2021):

  • 60% noted that they were buying products to make staying at home more comfortable because of the coronavirus pandemic
  • 22% noted that they had bought furniture to work from home in the last 12 months
  • 22% had bought home furniture in the last 12 months
  • 20% noted that they had bought outdoor furniture in the last 12 months

And, much as lumber mills and contractors have seen demand for their products and services skyrocket, so too are furniture manufacturers. Indeed, this increase in demand has caused one producer to announce plans to double its workforce – and thus its production capacity – to meet the demand for its products. Consumers saw this reflected in the challenge of getting their furniture purchases delivered in a timely manner.

Not only does this bode well for the company and its employees, but increasing demand for furniture will also support demand for such other products as:

  • hardwood and softwood lumber
  • engineered wood products (e.g., particleboard, plywood)
  • upholstery and fabrics
  • polyurethane foam (for interiors)
  • builders’ hardware (such as casters, handles and pulls, and hinges)

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, including Outdoor Furniture & Grills, and Freedonia Focus Reports such as Household Furniture: United States, Office Furniture: United States, Furniture: United States, and Furniture & Furnishings: United States. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Consumer Goods      Covid-19    

February Retail Sales Report: Building Materials & Garden Retailers Saw Declines, But Sales Were Still Well Above 2020 Levels; Rebounds Expected for March & April

Even as massive storms hampered consumer spending overall in February, the publication of the February retail sales report by the US Department of Commerce showed generally positive signs for building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers. As with most categories, sales declined in February after a strong showing in January; however, they were still more than 13% higher in 2021 than they were in February 2020 (the last pre-pandemic month of 2020 to compare to).

Retail sales in this segment often retreat in February, and 2021 was no different. This contraction in sales was due a number of factors:

  • Consumers opted to spend less in February to pay down bills incurred by holiday shopping.
  • Winter weather conditions often inhibit building construction and gardening activity, especially in the northern half of the US, but this year also hit Texas and other southern states. Weather not only slowed sales, but derailed many supply chains as well.
  • Many consumers delay making “big ticket” purchases until after they have received their tax refunds – most of which do not arrive in February. In fact, 2021 refunds – even for those who filed early – are running behind as COVID stimulus checks are being processed by the same government departments.

Still, overall sales by dealers of building materials and garden equipment were supported by factors such as:

  • continuing high prices for key building materials, such as lumber, copper wiring, and plastic pipe
  • efforts by contractors and other construction industry participants to “stock up” on key supplies in anticipation of future price hikes due to supply shortages
  • multiple outbreaks of severe winter weather across the US, which boosted sales of products such as snow blowers, shovels, and rock salt

Going forward, retail sales for building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers are expected to rise again in March and April. Not only do these months traditionally indicate the start of the outdoor season in much of the country, tax return checks and additional stimulus checks will likely spur additional spending. Despite the boom in spending on outdoor home improvements in 2020, fresh insights from The Freedonia Group National Online Survey (conducted February to March 2021) indicate that many households still have plans to make improvements to their yards and outdoor spaces in 2021.

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.

  Construction & Building Products      Consumer Goods      Covid-19