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5 of the weirdest purchases people have been making due to Covid

Darcy Dang
5 of the weirdest purchases people have been making due to Covid

Overview of the spending trends

Since lockdown and social distancing, consumers have been forced to shop differently — reprioritizing what is essential and swapping the checkout line for online shopping more than ever before. During lockdown, Britons spent more than £40 billion on non-essential goods, with each person spending an average of over £770 on anything from entertainment subscriptions, puppies and in one instance, a stuffed crocodile. Men forked out an average of £1,014.08 on impulse buys during lockdown, while women spent an average of just over £571 each, the findings claim.

After months of working from home many of us have adopted new habits. Some dived into home cooking, while others tuned into YouTube for bread recipes and Instagram workouts tutorials, and nearly everyone mastered the Zoom outfit – comfortable on the bottom, business attire on the top. In this new normal, we did some research on how the pandemic has impacted people’s buying trends. Here are some examples of some weird (or the new normal?) purchases people made during the pandemic:


In light of the UK’s ongoing lockdown and despite the overall decline in spending on clothing, certain fashion categories are becoming more popular, namely sweatpants. In fact, demand for loungewear and casualwear surged by 49 percent year-on-year growth during March and April, according to a study by interaction management firm Epsilon-Conversant which analyzed data from eleven retailers across the UK, all with a variety of categories for sale. The pandemic has softened people’s attitude towards the tracksuit bottom; elevating it to the work-from-home trouser of choice as fashionistas embrace the joys of an elasticated waistline. According to the tracking firm Edited, sales of sweatpants are up 36% compared with the same period in 2019, while searches have increased by 2,000% since last March on influencer platform

The Devils Wear Sweatpants: Anna Wintour is seen wearing a pair of sweatpants for the first time ever
The Devils Wear Sweatpants: Anna Wintour is seen wearing a pair of sweatpants for the first time ever

Flour and Yeast

As the coronavirus has taken hold and shut down our lives, we’ve taken to baking more. First stores ran out of flour and you couldn’t get a bag of any type of flour for love or money. UK grocers saw a 92 per cent increase in purchasing of flour, according to retail analyst Kantar. An extra 2.1 million of us bought flour in those four weeks compared to the year before, with everyone buying just one extra packet on average. In fact, the websites of independent millers have crashed due to such a surge in demand! 

And once the new home bakers of the country hoovered up all the flour, they came back for the yeast. Searches for the phrase “yeast for bread” have increased more than 1,000% in March 2020, according to digital tracking firm Glimpse. Yeast sales saw an increase of 181%! Three-quarters of a million more Brits bought yeast compared with the same period last year. Aspiring bakers have emptied supermarket shelves during the coronavirus lockdown and turned yeast into gold dust. 

Scented candles

With social life on hold, consumers are turning to products to reminisce on fun experiences from the outside world. Scented candle sales are surging during the Covid-19 pandemic, with international online retailer Net-a-Porter reporting a 130% year-on-year increase in mid-March, as brands capitalize on smell’s influence on mood and memory. Amara sold 127 per cent more scented candles between January and May this year than last year, while at John Lewis, sales of candle holders were up 43 per cent over the same period. Meanwhile, Heal’s reports a 220 per cent increase in sales of home fragrances in April and May compared with last year.

Indoor Plants

Indoor plants, which were already subject to an Instagram-fueled surge in popularity, now have added appeal for locked-down consumers looking to bring the outside inside. Sales of indoor planters at Amara were up 79 per cent from January to May this year, compared with the same period in 2019. Cultivating house plants is not the same as being able to roam the great outdoors but, especially for city dwellers with no outdoor space, creating an indoor garden may be the next best thing.

Toilet rolls and bidet 

A grocery store with all it's shelves empty in the toilet roll section.

In March, supermarkets were forced to bring in purchase limits, rationing toilet paper and a number of other products including pasta, hand soap and antibacterial wipes, as shoppers stripped the shelves.

A tweet saying that the year is 2020, the economy has collapsed and toilet paper is the new currency.

Online searches for the term “bidet” spiked in March, according to Google Trends data. The queries "what is a bidet used for" and “how to use a bidet” had, in Google parlance, a “tremendous increase”, with triple-digit percent rises.

A graph of the upward google search trend for a "bidet"

And retailers say that interest, coupled with ongoing fears of toilet paper running out again, has translated into a sales boom.

Ahmad Abuleil, the founder of Boss Bidet, which sells bidet toilet seat attachments told BuzzFeed News that his company’s sales had increased tenfold since panic buying emptied shelves of roll at the start of the UK’s outbreak in March. He’s not alone. The Big Bathroom Shop said there had been a "notable upturn" in people buying bidets, Tooaleta said it was selling four times as many of its nonelectric bidet seats as usual, and Tushy's UK sales have tripled in the last month.

And then there are some products that people don’t even touch despite the frenzied buying. On social media, people are sharing photos of the foods that haven’t been purchased even amidst the panic-buying.

An image of a grocery with only pineapple pizza let in the pizza section.
a tweet captioned " I really thought it was fake news that people weren't buying Corona beer. Then I saw this today.." and Image of a grocery store with the beer section empty except for the brand "corona"
Tweet captioned " Two observations today from the grocery store. Plant based meats are not desired and people need to smile more! Good day!" and an image of a grocery store with shelves stocked with plant based meat.
Tweet captioned " Somehow reassuring in the midst of coronavirus shopping frenzy to know that people still have the sense *not* to buy chocolate hummys and buffalo hummus" and an image of trader joes with leftover chocolate and buffalo hummus on their shelves.

The coronavirus has changed people’s habits in peculiar ways. Germans are sleeping longer. Italians are eating more rabbits and apricots, even though the fruit is not in season. The questions remain whether these habits will persist post-pandemic, which can only be answered in time. From the trends we have mentioned above, which are you guilty of?

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