After nearly three months of working from home, it is a welcome relief to begin the first phase of a return to offices for the HomeWorld Business team.
It is sure to be a work in progress as we reacclimate to a co-working environment that, despite best efforts to return to the pre-COVID norm, will continue to be marked for an untold time by the altered behavior of lingering caution.
Prognosticators in myriad sectors of life and business have been active the past several weeks trying to assess which virus-affected behaviors and practices will abate and which will embed. Such observations are key to forecasting by retail businesses reopening to transformed variables when it comes to calculating consumer shopping priorities heading into a back half that should provide a critical measure of the broader economic recovery.
It has been well chronicled how the housewares business has delivered strong sales to a homebound society with heightened health and cleanliness sensitivities… to go with hearty home-cooking appetites.
The June 17 edition of HomeWorld Business presents a pair of annual special reports: The Health & Wellness Report and The Home & Small Office Report. The convergence of these reports into this edition was scheduled before most of us had ever uttered the word “coronavirus” or given any thought to the expression “shelter in place.”
Health and wellness and home office lifestyles have been brewing concurrently the past few years to the benefit of the home and housewares business. Retailers have enjoyed growth from a widening range of small appliances and household accessories promoting healthy living; and from a new generation of adaptable home office furniture designed for a remote workforce that had been expanding long before so many people were required to work from home.
That these growth trends were in play before the coronavirus pandemic amped up demand for such products gives even more reason to believe consumers will continue their quest for innovative solutions that make living and working at home healthier, safer, more comfortable and more productive. And despite the recent surge in sales of many of these products, market analysts say responsive, creative marketers and merchandisers can tap into a broad base of consumers who have deferred such purchases for various reasons or face new and changing needs.
It will take some time before we can gauge the proficiency of all the prognostication about the lasting impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior and purchase patterns. The next several weeks, as we attempt to stage a careful reopening that mitigates the possibility of a disruptive relapse, should help outline a clearer framework for how a society shut in for so long will live, work, play and spend.
It will be a work in progress. Emphasis on progress.