What will sell during a crisis?

Sales strategy
In retail, it’s always important to keep an eye on consumer trends and to make sure your product selection follows demands while staying true to the core values of your business.

However, it’s rare that businesses have to pivot at the speed at which they are currently required to do. Many retail businesses are waking up to the reality of falling demand, even if their business had been thriving prior to the impact of COVID-19.

Finding out what will sell during a crisis is an exercise in consumer psychology and observing trends around you. Meet your customer where they are now and it is not too hard to identify what will still be selling.

1. Food and essentials

This one goes without saying. Food and household goods are the hottest commodities around. There is a real lack of availability for online delivery slots from the big supermarkets as they struggle to cope with an overwhelming rise in demand, meaning that businesses who are not normally in the home delivery game are stepping in to fill this void.

Wholesale food companies who have been hit by restaurant closures and the collapse of demand in that area are now turning to direct to consumer deliveries. Many are offering either a full range of essentials or pre-made boxes. Even service providers such as a company who normally pick up and drop off laundry and dry cleaning are now adding essential food box deliveries to their options.

With increasing numbers of people showing symptoms and avoiding leaving the house under any circumstances, the number of deliveries needed will only keep growing in the upcoming weeks. This means that any business with existing delivery capabilities should now consider how they can switch to accommodate these necessities if desired.

2. Craft and home activities

On the other end of the spectrum, there has been a big spike in interest in crafting and creative activities. Google Trends shows that searches for “kids craft kits” are up 200% in the last few days.

This trend is not just for children either – many people in self-isolation are looking to find ways to escape and unplug. Craft kits for adults are also trending as people seek to learn new skills and avoid screens with the endless cycle of news.

Businesses that offer handmade goods are also pivoting – some are selling off their supplies to boost revenue, finding that the market for fabric and other craft supplies is more buoyant than ever.

Other businesses are repackaging the items that they might previously have sold as finished products into DIY kits with instructions as people look for projects to keep them busy. Another area of growth has been home activities such as board games and jigsaws.

3. Gifting

As people cannot spend physical time together during the lockdown, there has been an increase in sending gifts and even hampers to friends and relatives. Many businesses are increasing their gift wrapping and gift note options.

Allowing customers to pay for the item to be nicely wrapped and to include a handwritten card with their purchase is an easy way to make life easier for customers and to encourage continued purchasing.

Gifting can cover a wide variety of product types, but there is a definite focus on small luxuries to make this time more bearable. Not to forget self-gifting either – there is a phenomenon known as the “lipstick effect” where people are more likely to purchase small treats for themselves during difficult times.

Overall, businesses that meet their customers where they are and acknowledge the need for comfort during this difficult time will still find a receptive audience when it comes to purchasing small luxuries.

This is especially true when these luxuries can support and enhance the experience of being at home – whether that’s cashmere lounge socks or comforting relaxed clothing, people are in full “cocooning” mode.

4. Motivational items

Another strand to gifting is the importance of motivational/encouraging items and messaging during this difficult time.

In the same way that people want to buy products that encourage creativity and mindfulness, they also want to give (and receive) items that have encouraging messages or can be used for motivational purposes. Items such as encouraging art prints or gratitude journals are still of interest to the customer navigating the current crisis.

Businesses in this sector that have the capability to print on demand or create new designs quickly will benefit from updating their slogans that are in line with the current sentiment.

5. Home equipment
As people adjust to life in lockdown, there have been increases in purchases of various types of equipment that are allowing people to continue with their everyday activities but at home. This covers several areas such as:

– gym equipment

– searches for “home gym kit” were up 350%

– big-ticket items like trampolines or ping pong tables

– kids play equipment

– hairdressing supplies from scissors to hair dye

– beauty supplies for home treatments

– coffee machines

– bread makers

Businesses that can provide customers with an experience at home that they normally would have to leave the house for are definitely at an advantage at this time.

For some businesses, pivoting is not possible given their lead times and current disruption in the supply chain.

However, for those that can, they will be able to re-assess their current product range and make adjustments to meet their customers where they are right now.

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