Even as Americans get ready to go back to work and school, consumers “continue to spend on categories that make their life at home more comfortable,” according to a report from The NPD Group. In the first six weeks of 2021, NPD says consumer spending on products like housewares, consumer electronics, and small appliances experienced double-digit year-over-year dollar gains.

For the last year, throughout the pandemic, consumers bought goods that, according to NPD, made “staying at home easier and more palatable.” Retail sales of these and other categories, like sports equipment, hit $706 billion in 2020.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced consumers to adapt, and they did so quickly, shifting their discretionary spending from travel and other experiences towards the here and now of a new homebound lifestyle,” says Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor, retail. “This rapid shift in consumer buying behavior propelled several industries, like consumer technology and housewares forward, and digital was at the forefront.”

Indeed it was, as online sales of these general merchandise products grew 34% last year.
Online dollar sales of discretionary general merchandise grew 34% in 2020. And according to The NPD Group / Consumer Tracking Service and Retail Tracking Service reports, the small appliances, video games, housewares, consumer electronics, and toys categories boasted the most online growth, with revenue gains of more than 50% each.

That trend has continued into 2021, where every week through early February has seen double-digit growth in discretionary retail spending in general merchandise categories. And in more good news, NPD says, “Even some industries that have struggled due to COVID-19’s impact, like fashion, are now showing signs of improvement.” Plus, NPD’s Checkout information shows online buying continues to outperform sales from last year by over 30%

But Cohen cautions that while this continued spending is “impressive…with many [of the] products being one-and-done purchases, future retail momentum will require product and marketing innovation that creates new consumer intrigue.”

Home stock photo by Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock