As restrictions ease across most of the country, the U.S. consumer is expanding what she’s willing to spend her money on. The importance of enhancing a homebound lifestyle remains, but consumers are increasingly showing their interest in products with a more personal focus, according to The NPD Group.
Week-over-week dollar gains that began early for categories like small appliances and toys started to expand into more discretionary categories like apparel and beauty in April and May, which pulled even more of consumers’ spending in the first half of June, said NPD.
“Right now, retail is reflecting the consumer’s need for normalcy in a sea of change,” said Marshal Cohen, NPD’s chief industry adviser for retail. “Purchases are becoming less about making our extended time at home more pleasant, and more about finding ways to enjoy ‘getting out’ and once again expressing yourself as an individual in public.”
In May, more than two-thirds of consumers said they would be comfortable with shopping in a store once stay-at-home requests related to the pandemic were relaxed, and nearly one in 10 said going shopping in a store was the first thing they planned to do, according to NPD Group. While sales of apparel, footwear, beauty and fashion accessories are still down compared to last year, year-over-year losses have been softening since mid-April. The consumer’s ability to return to stores is a contributing factor, as in-store sales declines improved across most industries in May.
Although the retail landscape has markedly changed, conventional needs and seasonality still play a role in consumer behavior. Kids’ apparel, underwear, sleepwear and shorts all achieved year-over-year dollar growth in May, and swimwear built momentum with week-over-week gains in early June. Seasonal impact also played a big role in categories such as men’s fragrance and fashion watches, where there were week-over-week gains leading up to Father’s Day.
“Even if the shopping experience is different, consumers still want the ‘real-life’ experience of picking out a gift, seeing the color of shoes up close, feeling clothing fabric, or testing out a skin-care solution,” said Cohen. “Retailers who can deliver a satisfying and safe shopping experience will win with the consumers who are ready to go beyond virtual shopping.”