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    

Strong Sales for WD-40 Corporation Linked to Increase in Home Improvement Projects

For many homeowners, an unanticipated benefit of the COVID-19 has been the amount of time spent at home, which has – as noted on this site frequently – spurred a wave of home improvement projects as consumers looked to improve their residences, adding decks and pools, remodeling kitchens and bathrooms, and converting little-used spaces into home gyms and offices. However, smaller projects have not been neglected, either, as many can attest: the “honey-do” list never seems to shrink.

Indicative of this was the recent quarterly sales announcement by WD-40 Corporation, which reported that sales were up by a double-digit percentage compared to those of a year ago. The company, which makes a wide range of lubricants, including its eponymous WD-40 product used in a wide range of home improvement projects, noted that its sales growth was boosted by the home renovation market, as homeowners undertook a wide range of delayed improvement projects, including the oiling up of squeaky doors and wheels, hard-to-close drawers, and other such tasks. Many of these jobs might not have been completed had not homeowners with abundant spare time on their hands and decided to cross these tasks off their lists of things to do once and for all.

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

  Chemicals      Construction & Building Products      Covid-19    

Strong Pallet Market Buffeted by Supply Chain Crises

The recent blockage – albeit temporary – of the Suez Canal demonstrated how tenuous the global supply can be, threating shipments of thousands of items worldwide. However, another item is as critical to the global economy as a giant freighter – and equally in peril: the humble pallet. Demand for pallets has risen over the past year as shipments of construction materials and numerous industrial products have remained strong, even during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, as more and more consumers shop from home, pallets are in demand to handle the vast number of packages shipped to and from warehouses and distribution centers.

However, as a recent article demonstrates, the swelling market for pallets is threatened by a series of challenges:

  • Surging lumber prices and a shortage of available lumber stock have made it difficult for wood pallet manufacturers to obtain the main raw material for their products.
  • Increasing nail prices – more than 100 can be used to assemble each pallet – have further driven up pallet costs.
  • Labor shortages – from workers needed to assemble pallets to the truckers needed to transport them to manufacturers and shippers – have producers scrambling to find employees to assemble and repair pallets and deliver them to customers.

While wood pallets will remain the leading pallet material going forward, rising costs and a lack of supply may encourages to use plastic pallets. Though more expensive, pallets made from plastic offer end users a number of advantages, such as lighter weight and the ability to be used for many trips before requiring repair or replacement. More importantly for suppliers, plastic pallets are more readily available than those made from wood.

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

  Automotive & Transport      Covid-19      Industrial Components    

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