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.

Urban Living Transitions: Tier 2 Cities, the Suburbs, & Rural Areas

A much discussed trend of the last few years is the pandemic era exodus from cities to the suburbs and rural areas…and potentially back again.

However, something to keep in mind: the Census figures being discussed in many of these articles are for the actual city boundaries, not metro areas. So when you see cities like Chicago and New York losing population, it includes people shifting to the suburbs just outside the city limits. In that way, it is still counted as the city losing population, even though people may not have moved that far away.

What makes those who move away from urban centers more likely to stick with their choice? It depends on their homeownership status and if they have kids. Homeowners are stickier in their location than renters are as the transaction costs to sell are much higher than moving at the end of a lease (or even breaking a lease, in many cases). Additionally, the move to the suburbs for the schools and larger yard when you have kids is an old story that repeats with each generation.

Still, for every article that has Millennials loving their new exurban lifestyle, there are ones about pandemic homebuyers who are miserable with the move to homeownership. They have maintenance responsibilities they didn’t have as renters and might be house-poor now, lacking the cash for the travel and events they would like to resume as the pandemic feelings ease.

But what are the effects of this movement – no matter the direction?

There are many implications to this trend. From building construction needs to the type of things consumers will be spending their money on. For instance, if you have that house now, are you investing in lawn and garden care equipment and supplies? Are you investing in a new deck? Are you buying paint and furniture? Or are you spending on travel and events and dining out?

Furthermore, this shift has implications also for infrastructure. Can investment in public transport and urban bike lanes be justified if city populations are falling and fewer people are commuting into the city?

This move to smaller cities, suburbs, and rural areas could also cause trends to spread differently. Classically, as people move, they take their tastes and preferences with them to their new homes. A primary example is the spread of international food trends along with immigration. While urban centers of Tier 1 cities are often the source of trends – from food to recreation to style and beyond – that might change. First, those leaving the urban centers will bring those tastes with them and businesses will form in smaller cities and suburban areas to give them what they want.

So not only will moving to the suburbs change the habits and preferences of the former urban dwellers, but their movement into the suburbs and rural areas will change these locations by their arrival. This could lead to trends spreading faster into smaller cities and rural areas.

What should we watch? Remote work trends are worth watching as it is a good part of seeing whether the exodus from urban centers holds. As more people no longer needed to consider commute times in selecting where to live, they could cast their real estate nets a little wider, sometimes even out of state. This opened up options to these people, and since they bought homes, they are now more sticky in their location compared to urban renters.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, especially coverage in Construction & Building Products, Consumer Goods markets, and Automotive & Transport industries. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Industry Studies    

One Company's Waste is Another Company's Raw Material

The circular economy is not just a chance to improve green-cred or as a marketing tool. It can be a financial benefit to a company’s bottom line too. If a company finds a market for something they otherwise would have to pay to dispose of, it's a financial win and a sustainability win.

We're looking at food waste for Packaged Facts this year as it’s a major issue food suppliers/retailers are targeting for sustainability goals (oh so very much waste), but not all food waste is edible or at least not edible in the same way, so...

Interesting case: Ford is using a plastic made using McDonald's coffee chaff (apparently that's coffee bean skin that comes off in the roasting process) for some of its headlight housings. They started working on this in late 2019, but talked about it recently in light of their pledge to reduce virgin conventional plastic use. Such material creativity has become more important, given the fact that recycled plastic materials are not available in large enough amounts to allow all the companies that need it for their sustainability pledges to hit their targets.

Others are also getting creative in making unconventional and more sustainable plastics. Loliware has developed a process using seaweed pellets that can be run through the same equipment that makes plastic straws, utensils, cups, etc. Right now, the company is only making straws and is able to offer these products at a competitive price because it doesn't need special equipment to make these straws. However, Loliware is expecting to expand into other areas with their molder partner Sinclair & Rush.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, especially coverage in the Packaging industries, as well as Food & Beverage coverage from our sister publisher Packaged Facts. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Food & Beverage      Packaging    

Autonomous Farming?

A big area for M&A activity in the last few years is in artificial intelligence, sensors, and related hardware.

The example of John Deere’s push into technology is a telling one. The company has been making many acquisitions in this area and this month announced it was acquiring artificial intelligence start up Light.

This announcement reflects two important trends:

1) It shows a legacy company increasingly moving into AI/robotics – a trend toward innovation that is occurring across industries and should not be ignored.


2) The company Deere acquired (Light) started out making cameras for smart phones, but then became a major player in autonomous vehicles by making advanced cameras and sensors – an example of a company taking something that was pretty basic and seeing a lot of downward cost competition and creating its own market by taking what it can already do into new markets.

Freedonia analysts continue to watch trends in AI, robotics, and other automation efforts across industries for additional opportunities.  

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, especially coverage in Construction & Building Products, Consumer Goods markets, and Automotive & Transport industries. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


What Will It Take to Make Remote Workers OK With Returning to the Office?

Freedonia’s analyst, editorial, economist, custom research, and marketing teams assembled in person at the Cleveland, Ohio office this week along with new staff in business development and the content team from Simba Publishing, our sister published brand. We shared ideas, developed new plans, discussed the factors in play underlying changes in our economy, and shared how key trends impact activity across industries. Our space included open and spaced out meeting areas, open windows kept the air flowing, and we used technology to include those who were unable to join us in person.

What would it take to make workers comfortable in the office? Two factors jump out. Clean air and lower commuting costs:

  • Wellness factors have long ranked high for many workers. Is the facility clean? Are there hygiene measures in place? How is the air quality? These trends accelerated in the pandemic era as workers prioritized the use of air filtration, ventilation systems, humidifiers/dehumidifiers, and indoor plants as ways to keep workers healthy. More companies and commercial building owners upgraded their HVAC systems, often incorporating HEPA filtration or improved fresh air exchange capabilities.
  • Commuting costs have more recently become an issue. With gas prices rising to levels not seen in decades, workers wonder why they have to spend more money to get to work when they were able to do their work remotely without the cost and time of commuting. Some companies are organizing carpool groups among workers or hiring a company to provide free vanpooling for multiple workers from multiple central locations. Other companies are offering bonuses, sometimes in the form of gas cards, to workers who return to the office more often.

Either way, businesses will continue to use creative responses and investments in their workers to retain staff. The most successful businesses will make the measures they incorporate meaningful to their particular staffs. The health of the commercial real estate market and business districts around the world rely on getting this balance right.

For more information and discussion of opportunities, see The Freedonia Group’s extensive collection of off-the-shelf research, especially coverage in the Construction & Building Products group and the Consumer Goods markets, particularly Indoor Air Quality Equipment. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Post-COVID Plans: Weddings, Working Out, Traveling, and…

Did you put off some a life event because of the pandemic? You’re not alone. This year’s wedding season is forecast to be one of the busiest in recent years with the number of couples expected to marry rising 15% over recent norms.

Do you have a bad pandemic habit to break? You’re not alone there either. Despite our increased healthy habits like hiking and walking the new dog and trying plant-based foods, the “quarantine 17” (pounds, that is) and increased drinking habits were the flip side. Many of us are now looking for ways to break some of our less-than-healthy habits.

Are you sick of your own backyard? Well, despite the continued investment in home spaces, some people are. The cruise industry is looking at a rebound in bookings and booking sites such as Vrbo, Airbnb, KAYAK, and others are seeing strong demand for spring and summer travel despite high gas prices and rising airline ticket rates.

Key business opportunities in the coming months and next few years are going to center around things we missed out on or what will help us return to “normal” (whatever that is). This will include services as well as related products and equipment from save-the-date magnets and formal apparel to workout gear to luggage and more. The challenge will be for companies needing to have the staff and products to accommodate this shift in demand.

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

  Consumer Goods      Custom Research