9 Comfort Buys That Have Been Popular Amid the Pandemic

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First it was toilet paper and hand sanitizer. Then it was baking supplies and hair dye.

The pandemic lifestyle is upending shopping trends, lifting grocery prices and surprising even manufacturers and retailers.

Americans apparently have moved on from essentials to a comfort phase of pandemic spending. Many things enjoying an uptick in sales recently seem to be things that are designed to make us feel better and fill our time at home.

Here’s a look at several categories whose sales have soared during the coronavirus pandemic.

Entertainment

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Entertainment products and services are overall the most popular nonessential purchases made during the pandemic, according to a WalletHub survey.

The survey found that 29% of Americans are spending money in this category.

Streaming services Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ have seen a surge in use, with home data consumption up 33% during the first 10 days of May 2020 compared with the same time in May 2019, according to the Comscore Total Home Panel.

What’s more, video games are having a moment: Gaming companies hit a record of $10.86 billion in U.S. sales from January to March this year. That’s 9% more than at the same time last year.

If you’re looking to save money on TV services during the pandemic, check out “4 Streaming TV Services That Cost $20 a Month — or Less” or Money Talks News’ latest coverage of streaming freebies and deals.

Alcohol

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Bars may have been closed in parts of the country to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but that didn’t stop people from drinking.

Information and data measurement firm Nielsen looked at alcohol sales for a seven-week period in March and April and found online alcohol sales skyrocketed 234% compared with the previous year. Meanwhile, sales at brick-and-mortar stores increased 21% compared with the same seven-week period in 2019.

By April 25, weekly online sales had grown 477% compared with last year.

Clothing

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To say the pandemic had a profound impact on retail shops would be an understatement. By the fourth week of March, retail traffic was down 98% according to Vogue Business, which quotes Prodco Analytics, Cowen & Co. and Bloomberg Intelligence. However, people still want to liven up their wardrobes, and they are turning online to do it.

Online sales at Target, for example, have soared 141% compared with the year before, and NPR notes that Target shoppers have begun to shift to clothing and home goods purchases.

Beauty products

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People may not be out socializing, but they apparently still want to look their best. Beauty products are among the top five nonessential purchases being made during the pandemic, according to WalletHub. Its survey found 13% of shoppers say they are spending on this category.

Skin care company Tula saw a 400% spike in April sales compared with the year before. While spending is up, shoppers seem to be shifting their dollars away from specialty retailers such as Sephora and Ulta and buying on Amazon instead, Vogue Business says.

Electronics

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Twelve percent of the people WalletHub surveyed said electronics were among the nonessential items they were buying during the pandemic.

It’s not hard to speculate that some of those purchases might be upgrades to home equipment for remote workers and students. Still others might be new electronics for improving the viewing experience of streaming services and video games.

Toys

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Kids need to be entertained during long days at home, and 5% of people surveyed told WalletHub that they’re spending money on toys.

Art supplies, board games and puzzles have also been hits among online shoppers. In March, 26% of the U.S. internet users polled by the American Association of Advertising Agencies said they planned to buy toys or arts and crafts supplies during the pandemic.

Puzzle maker Ravensburger had a 370% increase in sales in March. As the weather heats up, one company is reporting a 50% increase in sales of outdoor recreation equipment such as playsets, trampolines and basketball hoops.

Exercise equipment

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Gyms and fitness centers were initially shuttered in many states during the pandemic, which led people to move their exercise routines to their homes.

In March, 15% of internet users surveyed by the American Association of Advertising Agencies said they planned to spend more on streaming exercise classes and equipment.

Knitting supplies

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Knitting seems to be a popular choice for people seeking a hobby to fill their time in quarantine.

We Are Knitters, an international online seller of knitting supplies, saw its U.S. sales rise 270% in March, Vogue Business says.

At one point, the company sold 8,000 knitting patterns in a 48-hour period. Its sales of beginner knitting kits for children have grown 750%.

Seeds

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As people focus on cooking food at home, many are also looking at growing their own — and seed companies are scrambling to meet customer demand.

On a normal day, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds in Mansfield, Missouri, would have about 1,000 orders. But, on March 30, the company received 10 times that number. It was the biggest sales day in the business’s 22-year history, owner Jere Gettle told BBC News.

His business isn’t alone. Burpee Seeds, a top supplier of seeds for home gardens, even had to temporarily halt new purchases to clear its backlog of orders.

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