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As pandemic life continues to shift and many things are uncertain, there are a few knowns: how people shop and spend their money has changed. Trends are always temporary, but COVID lifestyle seems like it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. Which, as we know, can mean many different things. Some people have had to curb shopping habits while others are taking the opportunity to rethink home aesthetics, construct meditation gardens (complete with labyrinths - yes, this is a thing!) and give their closet a makeover. The marketplace for just about anything is either failing or thriving – there’s not a lot of in between. 

Neha Gandhi, Chief Operating Officer for GirlBoss, agrees. “I think what's gone away for now is everything that happened in the middle: Leisurely browsing. Shopping for the sake of shopping. Appointment shopping with specific events and gatherings in mind.” 

Though society in general does seem to have gotten past the no pants and sourdough bread making stage of pandemic (whew) there does seem to be one commonality across the board of pandemic life: comfort. With the numbers of people working remotely - or not at all - consistently on the rise, and levels of unease about being in public places even though they may be open, the general vibe is: let’s make this work as best we can. Upgrading home workspaces, elevating self care routines (ranging from skincare to splurging on a Peloton) or investing in better cookware are pretty on trend for current times. And while lounge and leisure wear ranging from chic to utilitarian has moved into the spotlight, sometimes that flowy dress and strappy heels is needed. 

Pia Baroncini, Creative Director for LPA, falls into both fashion categories. “I see two things happening (and I’m partaking in this); specialty and loungewear. I’ve bought a couple investment pieces and of course, chic loungey stuff. I find that when I do actually go somewhere I’m dressing up more to prove I’m a human, and for some reason that’s translating to shoes because I’ve been in slippers and Birkenstocks for five months.”

To dig a little deeper we had the pleasure of chatting with a few business leaders to gain some insight into how shopping habits have changed during COVID...

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Pia Baroncini, Creative Director @ LPA

“I want to say people aren’t buying speciality items, but I’m not really seeing that to be completely true on my end. We are selling party dresses and novelty items, and Davide’s brand (which is luxury and a high price point) is selling like hot cakes. However, we have transitioned to chic loungewear and sweatshirts, because that's mostly what we see people buying, including myself. This many months in, and with Google announcing their employees aren’t going back until July 2021, it’s clear we are living like this for a long time. So it's really about this sweet spot between being cozy but feeling dignified; three piece PJ sets, “nightgown” dresses, you know, chic house attire that you can wear out with an espadrille in summer or combat boots and a sweater in fall.” 

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Daniela Corrente, CEO @ Reel

“There are two major patterns that are fairly evident when it comes to shopping habits during COVID. 

One, is the type of products people are spending money on. We have seen a big swift in priorities, which is natural given the fact that we are spending so much time at home. This is especially true for people in big cities, because living spaces are way smaller. I, myself, have never spent this much time at home, and didn’t even have a home desk prior to this. So many of our Reelers are saving up to make their homes more accommodating to their new working realities; desks, ergonomic chairs, new computers and even noise canceling headphones have become very popular items. 

The second thing I have noticed, is that this pandemic has been a wakeup call for many people financially. COVID has impacted every single household in one way or another. The current economic uncertainty is pushing people to be more conscious in the way they pay for things, and that is a result of realizing how hurtful being in debt can be, especially when you might be out of a job when you least expect it. People are just resenting living paycheck-to-paycheck, and are looking at their expenses in a more responsible way.”

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Neha Gandhi Chief Operating Officer @ GirlBoss

“People are shopping on two speeds right now: The first is careful budgeting and penny-pinching, knowing that very few jobs feel truly secure right now—even for those who are fortunate enough to be in jobs and able to work remotely. A severe financial strain is a reality for so many people, and great deals and targeted sales are an effective way to convince them to spend. 

The second speed is limited to people with disposable income who probably have a bit more job security. I see a lot of these people being inspired to shop by strong marketing that targets their mental space at present (likely bored, cooped up, potentially lonely, or potentially overwhelmed by a complete lack of alone time). Those people are convinced to spend in binges and often on a whim—great marketing in key categories is super effective with this group. While retail sales are down 98% in the US, some loungewear companies have seen triple-digit growth during the pandemic. Same with consumer tech companies that make products that facilitate work and learning from home. And of course, oat milk sales are up nearly 270%.”

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Janet Cruz Padrón, Founder @ Latina Money 

“During these times of social distancing, shoppers have had to forfeit browsing the aisles of their most beloved stores. What once was an opportunity of retail serendipity where one lucky find could lead to another, shoppers have had to primarily now find ways to experience that magic on the world wide web through online shopping. 

With shopping restrictions in place such as closed changing rooms, minimal interaction with products, and intense cleaning procedures, people are poised to keep shopping online, even as shops open their doors again. The rise of e-commerce will most likely continue as in-store shopping trips become less of a pleasurable sensory experience and more of a burdensome necessity.   

Shopping during this time of quarantine means that most of my retail and household needs are now delivered to my door. When it comes time to do a grocery run, one of the greatest changes in my shopping habits has been the amount of time I spend inside the actual store. With my checklist in hand, getting in and out of a store as quickly and efficiently as possible has been my biggest priority during this COVID crisis.”

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Alixandria Capparelli, Founder @ Hairy little Things

“After months of living through this pandemic, I think it is safe to say that COVID has changed things. Like other industries, the beauty industry has taken a massive hit from a business and consumer standpoint. It has been a rollercoaster of the unknown; people are torn between wanting to pinch their pennies with the fear of possibly losing their jobs and wanting to spend on self-care in a time of need. We at Hairy Little Things were worried that clients were going to be apprehensive about spending money on having costly services done; however, we have actually seen the opposite. We have found that clients are seeking that feel-good sensation and are continuing to support the business by pre-booking appointments and purchasing gift cards for future use when we are allowed to re-open our doors.”

It’s clear that no matter what your life was like before COVID, the way you live, work, play, shop, save or spend has been altered. The saying, “the only constant in life is change” definitely hits a bit harder these days. But we are resilient, and so are our shopping habits. So rest assured, no matter if you’re masking up and shopping IRL (even though you can’t try anything on) or late night filling your virtual cart, the world of retail will be here for you.

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By Eve Martinez

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