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 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    

FOMO & Buyer’s Remorse – Two Sides of the Housing Market

Is the market showing signs of a housing bubble? The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas thinks it’s possible and warned this week that the market is showing “signs of a brewing US housing bubble.”

FOMO (fear of missing out) is a key factor causing concern. Buyers – both prospective owner-occupants and investors – are skipping inspections and coping with rapidly rising prices and bidding wars to make sure they aren’t left behind. As more prospective home buyers believe that prices will continue to rise even faster, they will be willing to make even more concessions to the seller out of concern that the prices will be even higher in a few months or years to come.

However, FOMO purchases that end up being rash decisions not only cause the market to overheat but lead to increased incidents of buyers’ remorse. If there is a market correction in the near future, that will be even more problematic for the home owners who are already seeing reasons to regret their purchase.

Some COVID-era buyers took money they had been spending on travel or on rent close to downtown offices and redirected to the purchase of a home, often with space for a home office, backyard entertaining, and away from city centers. However, as pandemic restrictions ease, some new homeowners regret not having that budget for travel. Others expected to be able to make renovations to improve a quickly bought home, but were surprised by the high cost and delays involved in everything from new floors to appliances and furniture.

This delayed ability to make a home the way a new homeowner would like it to be will contribute to extending the COVID-era home improvement boom. Still, the heat of the market is something to watch. Many economists agree that changes in lending practices since the 2008 recession will limit the impact if a bubble bursts. However, remodeling activity and trends in updating homes have long been a more important part of the construction industry and the willingness of homeowners to invest in their properties is crucial to the health of the market.

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 markets. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.


Fresh, Customized, & Contactless… More Robots in Foodservice

We’ve talked before about Sally, a salad making robot from Chowbotics (which was bought by DoorDash in February 2021). Sally seemed an ideal response to interest in healthy eating coupled with concerns about salad bars in the COVID-era, as consumers and businesses were more aware of germs and interested in contactless options.

But since we’re also in an era of shortages in labor – particularly in foodservice – and experiencing rising costs for labor, food, and facilities, there is additional energy behind the idea of how automation can help. Tech innovators have stepped in. The most recent example is the RoboBurger, first placed in New Jersey. This is not an April Fools’ joke – you can’t joke about National Sanitary Foundation (NSF) certification!

The RoboBurger requires human workers to stock the machine and to check it if on-board sensors report tech trouble, such as a power outage or other reason for improper heating or refrigeration. Otherwise, this 12 square foot mobile kitchen can make a fresh burger in about 6 minutes. The unit allows for 24/7 operation in places like college campuses, airports, malls, hospitals, and other such facilities where hot food demand could fall outside of conventional restaurant operating hours.

Freedonia analysts will continue to watch for ways that robots, artificial intelligence, and other innovations will enable businesses to operate more efficiently and affordably. These and other innovations will help businesses provide customers what they want and need when and where they want and need it.

For more information on discussion of opportunities, see Packaged Facts’ Food & Beverage industry coverage, including Food Carryout & Delivery (update coming in May 2022) and The Freedonia Group’s analysis of the packaging industry, including to-go containers in Foodservice Single-Use Products and Global Foodservice Single-Use Products. Freedonia Custom Research is also available for questions requiring tailored market intelligence.

  Food & Beverage      Packaging    

Seasonal Shipments Have a Tight Window of Peak Sales, But Goods Are Stuck in Transit

Seasonal businesses are feeling the crunch. While the warming weather and the hoped-for respite from COVID-19 outbreaks is spurring rising interest in a fresh wardrobe, outdoor recreation products, and gardening supplies and equipment, supply chains are not all able to keep up. Seasonal goods, particularly those being imported from Asia, are stuck in ports, waiting for an available container ship, waiting to be unloaded, or waiting for available trucks to get them to their final destination.

Suppliers of seasonal goods face a special challenge: a limited selling season during which goods are available for consumers when they want it. In most parts of the US, there is not a year-round demand for spring and summer clothes, gardening equipment, outdoor furniture, outdoor cooking equipment, pools and related supplies, and outdoor sports and recreation equipment.

Therefore, retailers and wholesalers must either store any products that are not sold during the peak window of sales or sell them in off-peak periods at what could be steeply discounted prices. The potential need to discount the price of products that do not arrive in time is particularly problematic as companies have often paid a premium (due to still sky-high shipping costs and inflationary pressures on materials and production in general) for these goods. Warehousing is also a challenge as warehouse space is costly for many and there is no guarantee that they will be able to sell the goods in the next season for the price necessary to cover the high costs associated with this current season.

Plus, as spring is seen by many as a period of awakening from our winter slumber, this is often the time of year that people are looking to refresh their homes, their wardrobes, their yards, their gardens, and their habits. As a result, many consumers are in the mood for something new, and styles warehoused from the previous season may not be attractive to consumers.

Therefore, suppliers and retailers are left with the challenge of ordering (how much and when) as well as with what to do when the goods don’t arrive when needed.

Many expect that supply channels will remain delayed for at least the next year or so. Shipping continues to be costly and will likely remain elevated, although not at the unprecedented levels experienced over the last few years. This, along with other inflationary pressures, makes season products a challenge as businesses and retailers ask themselves “how much is enough and will high prices deter customers in what has been a hot market?”

The threshold remains to be seen as consumer interest in outdoor living goods and a freshened wardrobe is still there. Freedonia analysts will continue to watch these trends for indications of directional change.

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      Covid-19