The COVID-19 pandemic has harmed both public health and the global economy. During Q2 2020, the U.S. experienced its steepest quarterly drop in economic output in recorded history. Businesses of all sizes across multiple sectors have seen significant losses, but not all industries have suffered.
Amid the cultural shifts of the pandemic, some sectors experienced skyrocketing demand. Some industries have avoided economic downfall and thrived in the past year. Here’s a closer look at seven of these sectors that have boomed during the outbreak.
Social distancing measures and health care concerns made in-store shopping an unattractive prospect for many consumers amid COVID-19. Some stores struggled to stay open, and many customers tried to leave home as little as possible. E-commerce emerged as an obvious solution to both problems.
Consumers spent an estimated $861.12 billion in online stores in 2020, representing a 44% growth over 2019. E-commerce made up a higher percentage of overall sales, too, accounting for 21.3%, compared to 15.8% in 2019. Online shopping has been growing for years, but this year-over-year leap is astounding.
E-commerce has been a saving grace for some stores and a profitable expansion for others. This trend won’t likely go away, either, now that the public is used to shopping online.
With lockdown restrictions in place, consumers in many areas couldn’t go out for entertainment. Many people had more free time than they’d had in years, so with nowhere to go, they turned to video games. This industry experienced a considerable boom as a result.
Global video game revenue neared $180 billion in 2020, surpassing North American movies and sports combined. Like e-commerce, this industry has been steadily growing for years, so it was in the perfect position for a COVID-19 boom. Video games are more varied and accessible than ever, helping attract droves of first-time customers with newfound free time.
Industry giants PlayStation and Xbox both released new consoles in 2020. These releases helped further their already surging sales amid the pandemic. The sector’s gradual shift toward gaming-as-a-service also helped, as it made games more affordable for some users.
With more free time and less access to public indoor spaces, many consumers picked up outdoor hobbies. Hunting became more popular amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite years of decline, hunting numbers surged in 2020.
In Michigan alone, hunting license sales grew 13% over 2019 numbers to nearly 446,000. That includes a 92% increase in customers who haven’t purchased one in at least five years. There was also considerable growth among younger hunters amid the pandemic.
Hunting is an isolated outdoor activity, making it an ideal pastime for the pandemic. It’s also accessible, with most states allowing hunting with AR-15s. This combination of factors set the industry up for success, despite the decline seen in other sectors.
While infections via contaminated surfaces are not a common transmission method, many people still worry about this. Even if this isn’t the primary way COVID-19 spreads, the pandemic has put new emphasis on health and hygiene. As companies looked to create as sanitary and safe an environment as possible, they turned to cleaning services.
Amid the pandemic, sanitation became more than just a health concern, too. A newly health-conscious public is less likely to visit an establishment with poor cleaning practices in the middle of a pandemic. Hiring services to ensure customer-facing areas are consistently clean was a natural solution.
News that ultraviolet light can be an effective disinfectant against COVID-19 spawned growth in new areas of the industry, too. Cleaning companies sold lines of UV disinfection products and even produced UV light-equipped cleaning robots.
Even in areas where people can visit brick-and-mortar establishments in-person, doing so isn’t always preferable. Health concerns stopped many people from venturing out of their homes, but technology provided an answer. Online delivery services helped connect stores and restaurants to their customers in lockdown.
Grocery delivery service Instacart saw a 218% increase in downloads of its app. DoorDash raised $400 million in equity capital after a fundraising round following a year of strong performance. While these services existed long before the pandemic, it took lockdown orders for consumers to recognize their full value.
More restaurants and stores partnered with these services amid the pandemic, recognizing the potential for mutual gain. This move, meant to help serve more customers, spurred further growth for delivery companies.
As is expected in a global health crisis, the medical industry faced several challenges amid COVID-19. Hospitals were overcrowded and understaffed, which made routine health visits difficult. Telehealth services, which provide remote access to health care workers and resources, saw record adoption as a result.
The pandemic stressed the importance of looking after one’s health but made it more complicated to do so. Visiting a hospital would mean potentially becoming exposed to COVID-19. Telehealth services enable patients to see doctors without leaving their homes.
In April 2020, nearly half of primary care visits happened over telehealth platforms, compared to just 0.1% in February. Even in Nebraska, the state with the lowest telemedicine adoption, these services cover 22% of primary care visits.
Home Fitness Equipment
Many consumers turned to streaming and video games in their newfound free time, but others sought to improve their fitness. With many gyms closed or restricted, the inevitable solution was to purchase home workout equipment. Companies that make these products saw remarkable growth as this trend accelerated.
Fitness equipment sales rose by 130% year-over-year between March 2019 and 2020. Benches, in particular, saw a 259% increase in this time frame. These skyrocketing sales caused health and fitness equipment revenue to more than double between March and October.
Some higher-end home gym products include virtual classes and personal training. These services helped push the industry even further amid the at-home workout boom.
COVID’s Economic Impact Has Been Uneven
Few people, if anyone, would argue that the pandemic has had a net positive impact on the economy. Still, despite widespread losses, some industries have managed to thrive during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Many of these sectors will likely continue to grow after COVID fades. It will take time for consumer trends to shift back to pre-pandemic behavior if they do so at all. If the past year has confirmed anything, it’s that the future is uncertain, but people and industries can adapt and flow with the changes.