Street Talk: Shopping trends revealed

Love letter.
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Think your shopping choices haven’t changed much during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Think again. Because everybody needs firewood and hand weights, right?

As the one-year mark into pandemic living has officially passed, West Michigan-based grocer and retailer Meijer Inc. revealed some surprising shopping trends from the height of the shutdown to the ongoing changes in home and work lifestyles across the Midwest.

While home delivery and pickup services doubled at Meijer stores over the last 12 months, customers used the retailer’s Shop & Scan technology more than 100 million times as they shopped and bagged while practicing social distancing to shorten time spent in the store.

Additionally, customers also ate more grab n’ go sushi, purchased more citrus produce and supplements, added hand weights to home gyms and purchased decorative pillows to enhance backgrounds for video calls or to work more comfortably from home while in bed.

“We continue to applaud our store teams that worked diligently throughout the pandemic to find solutions that would help our customers find the products they needed while keeping their families safe. It was a year rife with challenge, and although it’s not yet over, we see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Peter Whitsett, Meijer executive vice president of merchandising and marketing. “As communities have begun to re-open, we’re continuing to find new ways to be flexible as customers reshape their shopping habits for the warmer weather of a new year.”

As shutdowns continued, customers turned to new video game hardware and accessories, board games and puzzles to keep themselves busy and entertained. Notably, Meijer sold more bikes, pools and grills than past years and saw more than a 60% increase in fishing pole and gear sales as an estimated 9 million new anglers picked up the hobby to fill their time.

As wait times for restaurant takeout increased, stores saw a dramatic increase in grab n’ go and easy meal offerings for families to eat together at home. Some of the most popular choices continue to include rotisserie chicken, with more the 500,000 sold over the last month. Premade meals from local restaurants that Meijer partners with has been another quick meal option during the pandemic for some local communities.

Thermal curtains and weighted blankets grew more than 50% compared to last year as shoppers sought to keep heating bills down and block light in their home offices. Adding a variety of scents and ambiance to workspaces, spa-themed candles increased in popularity as the year progressed, resulting in a 160% increase since the beginning of the pandemic.

Finally, Meijer Express locations, which saw an expected decrease in gas sales due to less commuting, became de facto destinations for customers seeking quick trips as shutdowns reduced retailer hours. In addition to late-night snacks and beverages, 24-hour Meijer Express locations saw double-digit growth in firewood and propane sales for backyard gatherings and camping trips.

Home school

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week May 3-7, Momma’s Home, an e-commerce natural skincare and body care company in Zeeland, is seeking nominations from parents, students, friends, family and co-workers of outstanding K-12 teachers who will receive a gift basket.

“Teachers have had an especially rough school year, and we wanted to find a way for parents to show their appreciation and reward teachers with a little pampering with our skincare products,” said Amy Furman, Momma’s Home founder.

Participants can nominate their favorite K-12 teacher using the form at mommashome.com/school. During Teacher Appreciation Week, one teacher per weekday — five total — will be randomly selected to receive a Momma’s Home products gift basket. Nominations opened April 18 and close May 2.

During the pandemic, Momma’s Home has donated products to several groups of essential workers. The most recent was to fire personnel and emergency medical technicians in Grandville and Walker.

“This time, instead of choosing a worthy organization ourselves, we decided to let our community tell us who needs some pampering. Our educators have spent hundreds of hours in-person and online teaching our children, and we wanted to show our appreciation to them for their dedication,” Furman said.

Spend wisely

Michigan’s leading business associations representing thousands of employers have issued a call to government leaders: use federal stimulus dollars to transform the state. The $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan (ARP) signed by President Joe Biden allows leeway for how state government, municipalities and school districts can spend the one-time funding over the next several years. Instead of simply spending the funding quickly, the business community is asking for strategic investments that will help Michigan grow for years to come.

Business Leaders for Michigan, the Detroit Regional Chamber, the Grand Rapids Chamber, the Lansing Regional Chamber, the Michigan Manufacturers Association (MMA), and the Small Business Association of Michigan joined together to encourage leaders to work together across party and jurisdictional lines to assure these funds have lasting impact. The letter was sent to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, legislative leadership and municipal leaders outlining several key principles to guide potentially transformational investments.

“It can be easy to find ways to spend one-time funding on short-term needs, but far harder to find investments that will transform our state in the next decade,” said Jeff Donofrio, president and CEO of Business Leaders for Michigan. “Michigan’s goal shouldn’t just be returning to pre-pandemic status; this is an opportunity to both help our state recover from COVID-19 and advance long-term, widely shared prosperity. We know states and regions across the country are planning strategic investments that will give them even more of a competitive edge for jobs and economic growth in the coming years – Michigan can’t be left behind.”

“Policymakers must use these one-time funds to crush the virus, mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on our businesses and communities and set the stage for future success,” added Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. “Expenditures should be carefully considered for maximum, measurable and long-term impact, while avoiding the creation of unfunded, ongoing obligations or liabilities.”

John Walsh, president and CEO of MMA, said: “Spent wisely with a long-term focus on infrastructure, the economy and job growth, funds from the ARP can provide a massive investment with benefits that will last for years to come. … The greatest risk will be the failure to act strategically and with bold measures that can truly transform our economy.”

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