Media Advisory: NPD’s Retail Outlook One Year After Lockdown

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Retail recovery will come in stages; Categories will see varying levels of impact based on consumer lifestyle engagement.

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“The consumer is preparing to migrate back to pre-pandemic life, and retail needs to look beyond 2020 to understand what behaviors will remain and which will evolve,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor, retail.

Following uncertainty in late February, positive momentum seen in much of 2021 persists with encouraging discretionary retail sales results in the first week of March. U.S. dollar sales increased +6% in the week ending March 6, 2021, compared to the prior year.* Unit sales, on the other hand, dropped -5%, NPD’s retail early indicator data shows.* Entering the anniversaries of the pandemic and lockdowns, the measurement of success will become more complex.

“The consumer is preparing to migrate back to pre-pandemic life, and retail needs to look beyond 2020 to understand what behaviors will remain and which will evolve,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry advisor, retail. “As vaccinations increase in the first phase of recovery this spring, consumers will move back toward experiential spending, and this socialization shift will create movement in products related to new needs.”

The outlook:

  • The lifestyle pillars will remain, but in hybrid form – working at home, schooling from home, entertaining at home, fitness at home, and keeping a healthy home.
  • Online’s growth and the digital dialogue will have staying power.
  • Consumer trade-up purchases over the past year will make way for increased importance on innovation to drive demand, making price less of a factor than the product itself, and how quickly it can be obtained.
  • The migration toward direct-to-consumer selling will likely continue, but consumer engagement will depend on the experience.
  • Consumers have shifted to spending in the ‘here and now’, and will continue to do so.

The consumer’s current mindset on moving to the next phase of pre-pandemic life*:

  • Working from home: More than 1/3 of U.S. consumers anticipate working from home at least 1 day a week in the next 6-12 months; Thinking ahead to after the pandemic, 23% anticipate working from home more than they did before the pandemic.
  • Travel: Nearly 60% of U.S. consumers anticipate returning to pre-pandemic leisure travel within the next year.
  • Experiences: Half of U.S. consumers with children anticipate returning to the same level of entertainment activities as prior to the pandemic with their children within the next 5 months or have done so already.
  • Entertaining: 20% of consumers say they will only host larger group gatherings once they are vaccinated.
  • Shopping: Apparel is the #1 thing U.S. consumers plan to purchase in the next couple of months (more than ½), followed by footwear and beauty products. More than ¼ of consumers plan to purchase home products (small appliances, housewares, etc.), and electronics.

*Source: The NPD Group/Point-of-Sale Early Indicator Report, NPD Universe, WE March 6, 2021
**Source: The NPD Group / February 2021 Omnibus
(Discretionary retail includes the following industries: accessories, apparel, auto parts, beauty, consumer technology, DVD/Blu-ray, footwear, housewares, juvenile products, office supplies, small appliances, sports equipment, toys, video games)

For more information, or to speak with Marshal Cohen, contact Janine Marshall at janine.marshall@npd.com, and check NPD’s Now in Retail page and follow @NPDGroup on Twitter to see the latest insights across retail.

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