As businesses and travel open back up, I began to wonder how the shifting times would affect subscriptions, and more broadly, how consumers spend their money. As I started my research I quickly came across an unfamiliar term: “revenge spending.” At first glance, I thought this might have to do with getting back at an ex—I expected shopping sprees, expensive beauty treatments and weekend getaways to follow. While I wasn’t that far off, I came to understand “revenge spending” had nothing to do with getting back at another person but instead revenge on something we are all familiar with: the pandemic.
What is revenge spending?
Revenge spending comes from the idea that COVID-19 created an opportunity to save money for those not suffering from unemployment. People were not only saving money to create a safety net in the midst of so much uncertainty, they were also saving money on their commute, their daily coffee runs, dinners with friends and family, and general shopping trips. Now as cities open back up, and the ship starts to right itself, there is a desire to spend money and a higher level of comfort to do so. More than 50 percent of US consumers expect to spend extra by splurging or treating themselves, with higher-income millennials intending to spend the most.
An article from CNBC states, “Instead of splurging on experiences, which dominated luxury spending over the past decade and fueled much of its growth, the rich will focus their spending on physical products. Analysts say it will take at least a year or two before the affluent want to return to crowded planes, restaurants and resorts.”
What does it mean for subscription merchants?
While all retail categories have seen an increase in online penetration (35% from January 2020 to January 2021), I took a look at some quickly growing verticals within the Recharge ecosystem to understand how consumers are spending their money.
Recharge has welcomed a rush of makeup brands into the merchant pool recently. Much of the beauty industry was devastated by the pandemic and many brands pivoted to manufacturing sanitizers and cleaning agents to survive. Some brands even pivoted to selling products designed to help combat “maskne” (mask acne) or for a perfectly natural “Zoom glow.” But now we are seeing a strong recovery, especially in areas like lipsticks and teeth whitening. Ilia Beauty, which offers award winning clean beauty products, is set up to offer subscriptions through Recharge for the first time as a result.
On the flip-side, personal care products, like general skincare and deodorants saw a rise during the pandemic, suggesting that consumers who were spending more time at home were also spending more time on self care.
Whether people are back to throwing dinner parties or hiding out until they absolutely have to leave the house again, wine and cocktail subscriptions are here to stay. Beverage brands like Dry Farm Wines and Bev joined Recharge before revenge spending came to be and we are welcoming more newcomers like Eater Wine Club, MYSA Natural Wine and Spa Girl Cocktails. The convenience of having beverages come directly to your door creates long-lasting habits from consumers. Now that they may have more friends to share those beverages with, the opportunity to impress not only your current subscriber but also new potential customers is paramount.
Since the pandemic started, 76% of Americans said they’ve tried working out from home, according to a survey by the New Consumer and Coefficient Capital—and 66% prefer it to the gym. It makes sense why we are seeing a lot of activity in the fitness subscription space. One of our new favorite Recharge brands is Crossrope, a jump rope fitness experience. We are also welcoming fitness apparel brands like Tracksmith.
Aligning to many consumers’ journeys toward self-care, they are investing in areas of their homes like home-gyms to maintain their personal wellness.
It is no surprise that consumers became used to spending more money on their homes over the last year. One area in particular is candles. Wicksly and Apotheke have recently upgraded their subscription offering with Recharge. And we expect others to follow.
With consumers spending much more time at home, a way to “revenge spend” against the thing that forced them inside is to invest in home decor and improvements.
So what does this mean for merchants?
Physical product subscriptions have seen an increase in usage since the beginning of the pandemic, with replenishment services rising by 56%, while box subscriptions rose 62%—and with revenge spending we expect subscriptions to keep getting more popular. If you’re offering subscription services, you’re likely experiencing some of the benefits to the revenge spending movement. And for those merchants not yet on the subscription business model, the popularity of a recurring delivery of physical goods is just beginning.