Why buying homewares during coronavirus is good for your health

Penny Burfitt
Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer

If you have found yourself spending exuberantly on items such as a new lamp, rug, or even a 10-piece loungeroom set, it turns out you are both on trend, and taking positive action for your mental health.

As retailers report an unprecedented spike in homeware sales while other industries slow to a near-halt during the coronavirus lockdown, an expert has revealed that spending on homewares is an important psychological response to times of fear and uncertainty.

Spending on your surroundings gets the tick for mental health. Photo: Getty Images

Kim Burley is a communicative engagement academic at the University of South Australia Online and she tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the new pattern in people’s spending comes down to ‘nesting’ – a desire to organise and control our immediate environment, particularly in the wake of an uncontrollable global event.

“One of the main things at the moment that I can see is that people have to make sense of stuff which is unprecedented, [such as] the unprecedented environment and social distancing that is happening at the moment,” she says.

“So one way they do make sense is they organise.”

She says at the moment, many have lost a sense of identity as work and social interactions dwindle and, for some, disappear altogether.

She says that the more disturbing the news, the more we feel a craving for control.

“The more that we read about everything that’s happening, all the doom and gloom, we need to be able to make sense of that for ourselves,” she says.

“So it’s really important that in terms of the space that we have at home, that we’re organising that space in a way that makes sense to us, because it’s the only thing that we can control at the moment.”

Rearranging furniture is a great option for nesting on a budget. Photo: Getty Images

The behaviour may seem surprising given the decline in many people’s incomes as lockdown sees whole industries shuttered, but Kim says redecorating is a healthy way we can cope with the pandemic, and should be encouraged.

“I think it’s really important during this time when there’s so much for us that we can’t make sense of,” she says, adding those with financial constraints should consider rearranging furniture, and recycling old items to refresh their space.

“You don’t need to spend a lot of money to make sense of your environment and create a really nice space for yourself,” she says. 

Numbers confirm homewares spiking

Sales of homewares are one of the only sectors spiking. Photo: Getty Images

The latest evidence would suggest plenty have subconsciously jumped on board the nesting train, even if they’ve never heard the term before.

Analysis by the Commonwealth Bank shows that one of the only spending groups to continue to rise is home improvements.

A report from the bank’s Global Economic & Markets Research shows that spending on household furnishings and equipment has jumped 20% since last year, a rare upwards facing arrow in a sea of declines.

“It is simply not possible for households to spend on a range of goods and services when the businesses that provide them are shut,” said Gareth Aird, a senior economist with the bank.

Customers buy quick, and buying home

Charles Hinckfuss of MCM House says his business has a lifeline many don't. Photo: MCM House

Business owner Charles Hinckfuss runs MCM house, a boutique furniture company offering mid-range contemporary classic buys.

He tells Yahoo Lifestyle since the pandemic took hold customers are more decisive and ready to spend than ever.

Though the business has closed face-to-face sales and their showroom, Charles says his business has seen mid-range items, practical furniture, sell steadily. 

“Out of any industry we’ve still been able to keep a lifeline,” he says, adding that people are no longer browsing.

“People aren’t mulling over it, it’s either a yes or a no,” he says. “Everyone's sense of decision making halved.”

As to why his clientele have developed a sudden decisiveness, he says the answer is obvious.

“Everyone is obviously wanting to get their homes feeling good,” he says.

For those looking for a budget do-over, Kmart and Target are also seeing certain household items fly off shelves.

Similarly, Bunnings has seen record garden sales, with images over the past few weeks showing queues forming outside the hardware warehouse’s many stores.

A Target spokesperson tells Yahoo Lifestyle that they have seen certain items like bedding and lighting become increasingly popular.

Target's homewares, like this quilt set, have been flying off shelves. Photo: Target

“We’re seeing some key trends in what customers are looking for – be it ways to pass the time at home by reorganising [or] ensuring they have warm and cosy bedding as we move into cooler weather,” they say.

Home for work

Kim says the trend can also be put down to people’s desire to express themselves personally and professionally.

With most interactions now via video chat, we can no longer express ourselves in the same way through clothing, perfumes, or accessories, so the background has reached a new level of importance to many people.

Working from home has made your environment a professional consideration. Photo: Getty Images

“I can see with Zoom meetings that people are curating their backgrounds and what they have in the background to sort of give a sense of who they are,” she says.

“This is how we’re expressing ourselves now, through what’s going on in the background.”

“Instead of clothes we’re thinking about the environment that we’re in and having to spend so much time in.” 

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