Life after Covid-19: Surprising categories to benefit

Life after Covid-19: Surprising categories to benefit

During lockdowns around the world, we saw some obvious ecommerce categories benefit, such as:

  • Groceries
  • IT equipment for homeworking
  • Fitness-related equipment for home-workouts

But what about some of the less obvious categories which have seen a spike? Let’s take a look.


Sex toys

With consumers spending more time at home, and the global situation looking bleak, sales of sex toys have been rampant around the world:

  • In the UK, Ann Summers reported that sex toy sales were up 27% during lockdown. Their bestselling product was the Whisper Rabbit, which they promote as their quietest vibrator. A company spokesperson commented, “Customers are placing increasing importance on noise whilst they have a full household.”
  • In Germany, retailer Dildo King reported an even bigger increase: sales were up 87% year-on-year since restrictions were announced and fetish article sales were up 94%.
  • Also in Germany,, another online retailer of sexual accessories, said orders had doubled during social restrictions. On 23rd March, it saw the biggest sales volume in its history. They even had to limit the number of bulk packs of condoms to one per customer due to such high demand. Possibly inspired by the blanket medical-related coverage, the company reported that sales of its fantasy nurse uniform had risen thirtyfold
  • While people across the world are asked to stay at home, Sex Doll Genie, a US-based brand which sells a range of over 2,600 premium made-to-order sex dolls, reported a 52% increase in orders in February and March, rising a further 33% in April

It was a similar story across the world, with news reports of sex toy spikes in Columbia, Denmark, France, Italy, New Zealand and elsewhere. A particular trend was in teledildonics, a term used to describe high-tech, interactive, internet-connected sex toys. With social distancing having turned many couples into the equivalent of long-distance relationships, Bluetooth or Wi-Fi-enabled sex toys allow couples to attempt to recreate interactive sexual experiences.


Fruit and vegetable seeds

As well as sex toys, there has also been increased interest in gardening, as furloughed workers and people working from home look for activities to occupy their free time. Although interest in all gardening has increased, there has been a marked increase in the sale of fruit and vegetable seeds worldwide:

  • In the US, seed company W. Atlee Burpee & Co sold more seed in March than any time in its 144-year history
  • In Canada, Stokes Seeds reported that sales were up fourfold in March
  • In Russia, demand for seeds rose by 30% year-on-year in March, according to online retailer Ozon
  • In Singapore, which relies heavily on food imports, nine rooftop farms are planned on top of multi-storey carparks

Gardening is a soothing, family-friendly hobby for those confined to quarters. The lack of access to garden centres and gardening materials has been a frustration for consumers keen to make the most of their time at home. Now restrictions are lifting, sales of gardening products on and offline are continuing to boom.

The spike in fruit and veg seed sales indicates a desire for self-sufficiency, reflecting the increased salience of food security during times of crisis – which also explains why sales of yeast, bread-makers and home-brewing kits have increased too.


Hobbies and crafts

Hobbycraft, the UK’s biggest arts and crafts retailer, reported that the number of people visiting the ideas page of its website has tripled since the lockdown began. Its “50 sewing projects for beginners” blog post had been its most popular post with searches for sewing machines, fabric and thread up 155%, 60% and 310%, respectively on the previous six weeks on the back of it.

The shortage of PPE for frontline workers has galvanised people to make their own masks, with searches for mask-making materials such as cotton fabric and elastic up more than 500% and 700% on the Hobbycraft site.

In Japan, Brother sewing machines has seen a year on year rise of 30% in orders for sewing machines and Janome Sewing Machine Co, headquartered in Tokyo, has seen increased sales not only for entry level machines, but also higher priced models as well as inquiries about how to use older models that are being dusted down for use.

It’s a similar story in the US, with news reports of an increase in craft-related activities. The New York Times reports that “People have gone full 1800s” as they turn to “old-timey crafts of a bygone era”.

The publication Psychology Today states that as the pandemic “is preventing us from being together in person, from touching one another, from sharing space with each other, our sensory world [shrinks]. Between business meetings on Zoom and drinks with friends on Facetime, we could find our daily lives compressed to the dimensions of a laptop screen—and just as flat, smooth, and lifeless. Instead, by immersing ourselves in craft, we’re ensuring that touch remains a vital part of our everyday experience.”


Three tips for marketers

  • Keep an eye on category trends – what’s up and what’s down on your website?
  • Build campaigns around products most relevant to your customers. Review CTAs and ensure product information is fully optimised and localised for each market
  • Create engaging content – as people spend more time at home, they’re looking for entertainment. Create relevant content which inspires your audience


To find out how Oban can help you navigate the new normal, please get in touch.

Chloë McKenna

Chloë McKenna | Director of New Business

Oban International is the digital marketing agency specialising in international expansion. Our LIME (Local In-Market Expert) Network provides up to date cultural input and insights from over 80 markets around the world, helping clients realise the best marketing opportunities and avoid the costliest mistakes.   

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