As the days of isolation and closures stretch on due to the novel coronavirus crisis, one thing is becoming clear: The pandemic may be crippling the economy as a whole, but it’s not hitting everyone equally, according to recent data.
According to online business directory and review site Yelp, “The changes, like the pandemic that spawned them, haven’t hit all of the U.S. in the same way, though every state now reflects, to some degree or another, the new reality of the coronavirus economy.”
Its Coronavirus Economic Impact report points to how social distancing, stay-at-home measures and forced business closures, as well as fears of infection, are reshaping consumer behavior.
The momentum has taken a sharp turn away from businesses requiring human contact or shared equipment, such as beauty services, as many have been forced to close due to state mandates. Day spas, tanning, waxing, and eyelash services are down 23 percent, 19 percent, 18 percent and 16 percent, respectively.
That doesn’t mean people are less interested in maintaining themselves, however. In fact, the health crisis has some shoppers flocking to wellness products.
The debate over their efficacy may rage on, but it hasn’t dampened consumer interest. Dirty Lemon, for instance, has seen an 81 percent increase in direct-to-consumer sales over the last three weeks. For its “immunity-boosting” drinks in particular, sales jumped between 200 and 500 percent last week, depending on the product, the company told WWD.
Over at Pinterest, users are on the hunt for self-care inspiration and products. Search volume for “spa day at home,” for instance, has gone up close to 20 percent in the past two weeks, compared to the previous two weeks. “Makeup tutorial for beginners” shot up 180 percent last week as well. These findings somewhat mirror WWD’s findings in the beauty sector.
Amy Vener, Pinterest’s global head of retail, offers a theory: People have more time on their hands, she told WWD, so they’re looking for inspiration and turning to brands on the platform.
“Consumers are reevaluating their lives, and they have the opportunity to take a step back and invest in themselves a little bit,” Vener said. “Things like spa days and [asking] how can I be good to myself are not necessarily to escape from reality, but to invest in myself so I can deal with reality.”
She noted that Pinterest now has 2.5 times more shoppable products from retailers than last year, with traffic to retailer sites jumping 2.3 times. Perhaps more telling, shopping on Pinterest has increased about 44 percent over last year. And the company just introduced new updates to keep supporting retailers.
Pinterest searches and saves for fashion haven’t popped the same way, but neither has interest fallen, Vener said. And a caveat may hinge on another trend: There’s a spike in interest for home workouts, which could lift related gear and apparel, she added.
The push for ath-leisure is bearing out over at Threads Styling. The social media-driven fashion tech and online styling service has seen a growth trend in ath-leisure and luxe loungewear over the last few weeks.
Using the tools of its Gen Z, luxury-seeking customers, the company took to WhatsApp and Instagram direct messaging to ask what they wanted to see right now.
“We had an overwhelming response,” said Sophie Hill, founder and chief executive officer of Threads Styling. “People want us to inspire them with WFH [work from home] looks, with new exciting ath-leisure brands and with exciting editorial to keep them distracted from everything going on and to keep it fun.”
Luxury apparently still has a place, even in the coronavirus era, she said. Though she didn’t offer numbers, she described “incredible sales” for Pangaia, Threads exclusive brand, and others, such as Brunello Cuccinelli, Loro Piana, Les Tiens and Loro Piana.
“Our clients are definitely still buying luxury, but we have seen a pivot on products they are chatting to us about — so a big uplift in interiors and homewares,” Hill continued. “We have also seen a lot more interest in comfortable at-home clothing, as well as sneakers — Yeezys, which clients are wearing as house shoes.”
Indeed, brands such as Yeezy and Birdies, which shoppers see as stylish and cozy at-home footwear, benefit during a time when homebound consumers are looking for comfort.
But while some trends continue or even accelerate, the virus has stopped others in their tracks.
Yelp data points to COVID-19 fears pushing shoppers away from secondhand purveyors. Used, vintage and consignment stores are down 64 percent, and thrift stores dropped as much as 38 percent.
Online, purveyors like ThredUp and Rent the Runway tread carefully now. The latter recently went out of its way to emphasize its stringent cleaning practices, even e-mailing customers on Wednesday to reassure them that its processes “kill viruses such as the common cold and flu.”
Notably, the Yelp report also revealed business at shopping centers have fallen as much as 58 percent, from March 1 through 22.
The signs are clear that, as consumers en masse contend with a new normal, so must retailers — in various ways.
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