There’s no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has changed our spending habits dramatically. With more time spent at home, it’s not surprising that electricity and grocery bills have gone up. And with nonessential businesses forced to shutter, many of us have invested in products from hair clippers to fitness equipment in order to maintain a sense of routine.
But not all of the pandemic spending trends have been so obvious. Thanks to a combination of boredom and fear, Americans have been buying up some surprising items. Here’s a look at seven unexpected products that have seen surges in sales since the lockdowns first began.
1. Roller skates
With lockdown orders in effect around the country, antsy Americans have been looking for new hobbies to occupy their time and excuses to go outside. For many, roller skating turned out to be a perfect solution.
Google searches for ”roller skates″ spiked considerably in May and retailers suddenly struggled to keep up with the demand, The Washington Post reported. California-based Moxi Roller Skates faced 12 times its usual sales and developed a massive backlog of orders, prompting its manufacturer to open a second factory to fulfill them all, according to founder Michelle Steilen. Impala Rollerskates’ pastel fade skates sold out the same day they were released during the lockdown, chief executive Matt Hill told the Post.
Because skates became just about impossible to find in stock, many consumers turned to secondhand markets. Online marketplace Mercari, for example, has seen an average of more than 21,000 searches for roller skates per week over the last six weeks ― an 892% volume increase since the pandemic ― with more than 300 new listings for roller skates added weekly.
As the pandemic raged into summer, Americans with a travel bug were desperate for a way to sightsee while maintaining social distancing. Recreational vehicles have been selling like crazy (even yours truly bought a used one). In fact, RV dealers saw as much as a 170% increase in sales for the month of May compared with the same time last year, according to the RV Industry Association.
Travelers who don’t have the money to buy haven’t let that stop them. RV rentals also surged, especially ahead of Memorial Day weekend. RV rental site RVshare reported a 1,000% increase in nationwide bookings since April 1.
Pandemic spending hasn’t been all fun and games. The number of firearms background checks compiled by the FBI ticked upward beginning in March and reached a record 3.9 million in June.
There are a few reasons for this heightened interest in gun ownership. It’s typical for gun sales to increase around election time. And, considering that Democratic hopeful Joe Biden supports greater restrictions on firearms, some opponents of gun control may want to stock up on firepower while they still can. Add in civil unrest around the country and a general sense of fear as the coronavirus remains uncontained and many people are feeling the need for heat.
For those doing their best to avoid busy public spaces, the grocery store is one of the top places to steer clear of. But grocery delivery services can be pricey, and sending an Instacart or GrubHub worker to do your dirty work may feel unethical.
It’s one reason why so many Americans have picked up bread-making during the pandemic. Sales of baking ingredients in general have soared, but dry yeast has been especially hard to come by. Yeast sales were up by 647% at the end of March, compared with the same week last year, according to Nielsen. In fact, yeast experienced the fastest sales growth over a seven-day period than any other grocery product tracked by Nielsen.
In many homes outside of the U.S., a bidet in the bathroom is commonplace. But here, bidets are finding newfound popularity following the toilet paper shortages that marked the beginning of the pandemic.
Google searches for bidets spiked in mid-March, while companies that sell bidets experienced a boom. Jason Ojalvo, CEO of Tushy, told Yahoo in April that sales were 10 times higher than they were pre-pandemic.
All dressed up with nowhere to go? If you’ve been working from home, avoiding bars and concerts, and generally lounging around the house all day, there’s no need to go out and buy new outfits. Not surprisingly, U.S. clothing sales dropped 79% in April. Sweatpants, on the other hand, are having their day. Purchases were up 80% over the same period the previous year, according to The New York Times. No doubt, many of those comfy clothes purchases were the subject of equally trendy tie-dye projects.