The Unlikely Products Selling Out Because Of Coronavirus

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The pandemic is altering short-term shopper behavior — and retailers can’t keep up

Jennifer Alsever

TThe coronavirus lockdown has businesses reeling, with countless companies anticipating steep sales declines and some entire industries at risk. And yet some items are still flying off the shelves in this new work-from-home (and do-everything-else-from-home) world — and it’s not just toilet paper and hand sanitizer. A wide variety of products, from sporting goods to appliances, have suddenly become hot ticket items.

Here are some of the surprising products that are selling out and what it says about the current mentality of shoppers.

You wouldn’t think a pandemic would be the time you’d start shopping for appliances, but plenty of people went in search of them this month. In particular, they wanted freezers — the better to stockpile food. Freezer searches climbed 440% this month compared with the first two weeks of February according to data by Slickdeals, an online coupon company that monitors e-commerce shopping traffic.

When all the toilet paper sold out at grocery stores, shoppers began hunting for another solution: bidets. Searches for the bathroom fixture jumped 304% this month compared with the first two weeks of February according to Slickdeals. (The firm’s data also showed searches for toilet paper were still high — up 7,000%.) At New York-based bidet startup Tushy, “Sales have been up about [tenfold], which is pretty crazy,” CEO Jason Ojalvo told the New York Post.

In San Francisco, business was brisk at gun stores last week amid the state’s shelter-in-place order to stem the tide of new Covid-19 cases. And there are signs that sales of guns and ammo are increasing nationwide. As one customer told the San Francisco Chronicle, “If society is unraveling, it’s up to us to protect ourselves.”

Similarly, archery and bowhunting website Archer’s Supplies witnessed a sudden spike in sales on various types of bows, crossbows, and other hunting equipment. Says Oleg Donets, CEO and founder of ODMsoft, a web marketing agency, “People are preparing for something unexpected.”

With gyms and in-person exercise classes off-limits, shoppers are snapping up home exercise equipment, including accessories like kettlebells, which sold out on Amazon last week. Peloton is cranking out exercise bikes to meet demand (although the company canceled orders of its treadmill, which required in-home set up), and boxing equipment company FightCamp saw its sales increase four to five times what they were last year. “It shows no signs of slowing,” says Khalil Zahar, CEO of the California-based company. “We’re seeing similar surges in buying now to what we would typically see on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.”

There’s also been a rush on virtual workouts. Local studios and gyms are scrambling to offer virtual classes via Zoom and one-on-one workout consultations. Beachbody, which streams at-home workouts, saw a 330% jump in subscribers last week compared with the same time the year before, and the number of workouts streamed jumped 79% last week compared with the week before.

Of course, people sought items to put in those freezers — mainly, meat. Nielsen reported big sales jumps for all kinds of meat over the past two weeks — even canned meat, which grew 187% last week compared with the same period the year before. Meanwhile, U.S. sales of poultry climbed 51%. “Chicken is flying off the shelves,” says Jim Perdue, owner of Perdue Chicken Company, based in Salisbury, Maryland. He says the company is working overtime to meet demand. (For the record, there was no huge rush for vegetables and fruit but rather potato chips and pretzels, both of which saw impressive double-digit growth.)

School closures and the work-from-home mandate spiked a serious run on computers, laptops, office chairs, and monitors. Parents tired of sharing computers with children (who now must log online to learn) have caused an unprecedented surge in laptops and computer notebooks. As manufacturers wrestle with supply chain problems in China — which is only now recovering from the coronavirus — disrupted suppliers from shipping key components. Dell Technologies is searching for alternative suppliers, and Lenovo Group has had more demand for monitors and headsets as well as computers. Experts predict demand for laptops to continue to grow.

People scurried to set up home offices, too. Internet searches ballooned for desks (87%), monitors (75%), and office chairs (65%) according to data by Slickdeals.

With all the festering anxiety, sales are heating up for marijuana and CBD products, especially in California, Washington, and Colorado, where pot is legal. In some areas that implemented lockdown orders to prevent people from leaving their homes except to buy essentials, marijuana dispensaries (along with liquor stores) made the cut to qualify as “essential businesses.”

Home delivery, too, is skyrocketing. Marijuana orders grew 229% this past week, according to Weedmaps, which lets people locate dispensaries and order online. Buyers also spent more: They spent 100% more than they did last week when they ordered online and picked it up in the store.

“Dispensaries in cities like Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Denver have had a steady stream of customers in their businesses,” says John Kueber, CRO of Sorse Technology, a CBD company. “My THC partner, GreenMedLabs, which produces cannabis beverages, has seen their orders triple in the last week.”

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