• With global COVID-19 cases exceeding 3.6 million, lockdown restrictions are changing people’s spending habits.
  • Cycling and other forms of exercise are growing in popularity.
  • Drive-in movies could be making a comeback.
  • Local stores are seeing a spike in demand.

Life under lockdown has turned our everyday world upside down. With economic activity on hold in many countries, some once-prosperous businesses face an uncertain future. But for some, the pandemic has had an altogether different impact.


Here are the sectors finding an unexpected boost during the pandemic:

1. Cycling

People cycle along Hoylake Beach, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Hoylake, Britain, April 20, 2020. REUTERS/Molly Darlington - RC2E8G9YJF6S
In some countries, cycling offers a way to escape the confines of lockdown.
Image: REUTERS/Molly Darlington

People are taking to two wheels in droves, both as a way to exercise while obeying social distancing rules and to avoid crowded public transport. Bike stores have been declared an essential service in the UK, with many shops seeing a spike in demand.

The Association of Cycle Traders (ACT) told the Guardian newspaper its members were reporting strong sales of more moderately priced new cycles and a boom in repair services.
A growing number of people are dusting down their old bikes and rediscovering the joys of cycling. Business at the London Cycle Workshop has doubled, according to the BBC, as people seek repairs.

A similar trend is happening in places like Berlin, where city streets are being converted into bike lanes to encourage more cyclists. (In other countries like France, Spain and Italy, riding bikes was not permitted during lockdown.)


2. Home fitness

As quarantines kept people indoors, they increasingly turned to home fitness regimes to stay healthy.

In China, where the first COVID-19 lockdown was implemented, sales of home exercise equipment soared. JD.com said sales of machines such as ellipticals and treadmills nearly doubled, while rowers jumped 133%.

This trend is echoed in other parts of the world, as people stay away from crowded gyms and exercise classes. Online sales of yoga mats have climbed the top-sellers list of major retailers in the US. And UK department stores like John Lewis are seeing a significant increase in home gym equipment, according to the BBC.


3. Drive-in movies

People inside their cars watch a movie at a drive-in theatre while keeping social distancing following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., March 28, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Bello - RC2FTF9DVQ6X
Drive-in movie theatres like this one in Florida allow people to go out while obeying social distancing rules.
Image: REUTERS/Marco Bello

In the US, drive-in movie theatres could be making a comeback, following years of decline due to cinemas moving into shopping malls and services like Netflix bringing the big screen to people’s homes.

Social distancing rules have closed many regular movie theatres. Drive-ins offer a way to escape the confines of home quarantine and be entertained while keeping interaction with others to a minimum.

While major cinema chains in the US and Canada have suffered the industry's lowest box office weekend sales in 20 years, some open air cinemas are thriving. Drive-ins in California, Kansas, Oklahoma and Missouri are open for business with some reporting higher ticket sales, according to the Los Angeles Times.

4. Local grocers

Many independent and smaller grocery stores have seen business increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. As more customers shop for groceries online and large supermarkets run out of stock of essential lines, people are turning to local grocers to top up their shopping.

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Coronavirus has changed our shopping habits.
Image: YouGov

Research by YouGov in the UK shows nearly a quarter of people in Britain have visited local grocery stores more since lockdown restrictions were imposed. The survey found a 5% increase in people’s use of local butchers or fishmongers, and a small increase in visits to speciality food shops.

The same trend is happening in the US. President of America’s National Grocer Association Greg Ferrara told ABC News that independent grocers are helping large chains meet unprecedented demand.

What is the World Economic Forum doing about the coronavirus outbreak?

Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic requires global cooperation among governments, international organizations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation.

Since its launch on 11 March, the Forum’s COVID Action Platform has brought together 1,667 stakeholders from 1,106 businesses and organizations to mitigate the risk and impact of the unprecedented global health emergency that is COVID-19.

The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action.

As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics. In 2017, at our Annual Meeting, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) was launched – bringing together experts from government, business, health, academia and civil society to accelerate the development of vaccines. CEPI is currently supporting the race to develop a vaccine against this strand of the coronavirus.

5. DIY and Home improvement

Ireland has seen a sales boom in DIY and home repairs as people fill quarantine time by painting walls, fixing woodwork and tending to the garden.

The Irish Times reports unprecedented demand at some DIY stores, with long queues standing the recommended 2-metre distance from one another. The same distancing rules are in force at the checkout, but customers describe busy scenes inside some shops as people stock up on household products and take advantage of plant sales.

In Wales, Wrexham plant seed seller Justseed has stopped taking orders for some products due to excessive demand. “We’re catching up with a massive surge” the company told the BBC.

Garden centre Marshalls in the UK has asked customers to be patient when ordering in the face of unprecedented demand.

Other lockdowners are turning to baking, knitting and handicrafts. London’s Liberty department store has seen a 380% increase in sewing accessories and almost 230% uptick in craft kits, the BBC reports.