It’s not exactly surprising to learn that some people relied on hobbies during the pandemic. After all, spending months and months isolating and distancing from others would naturally make anyone feel compelled to spend their time doing things they enjoy. But what kind of investment have people made in their hobbies, before and during the pandemic? As it turns out, spending on hobbies increased in one area especially – technology and computers.
That’s according to a new study from CouponFollow, which compiled data from the U.S. Census Bureau, Statista’s Global Consumer Survey, Microsoft Advertising, and others to get a sense of hobby spending in the U.S.
Overall, monthly hobby spending since 2017 was pretty consistent until the pandemic’s onset, with the exception of a spike to about $4 billion in December of 2017. Those numbers dipped at the very beginning of the pandemic to a three-year low but picked up again in the springtime, peaking to $2.6 billion in December of 2020.
When it comes to the most popular hobbies in America currently, the data showed that music (53%) and food (51%) reigned, and technology and computers fared much lower at just 29%. Generally, the pandemic didn’t actually correlate to a spike in hobbies, but there were certain hobbies that saw a major uptick in search volume online – notably tech and computers. Pre-COVID, computer, and consumer electronics accounted for 5% of searches, and that number shot up to a stunning 41% during the pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, the study found that Amazon was the leading online retailer for the hobbies category across the U.S. in 2020, with net sales of $10.36 billion. Staples came in second, though they had significantly less net sales ($1.96 billion). Office Depot ($1.54 billion) and Walmart ($1.26 billion) both fell between Staples and APMEX, which had net sales of $1.7 billion in 2020 overall.
By state, California had the biggest percentage change (29%) in hobby retail sales from 2019 to 2020, followed by Vermont (27%), Connecticut (25%), Utah (25%), New Hampshire (25%), and Florida (22%). Washington, D.C., had the lowest percentage change in hobby retail sales between 2019 and 2020, with just a 1% change.
It’s interesting to look at the sales figures of different products and industries pre-pandemic and during the health crisis, especially in areas like musical instruments, sporting goods, and books. Those all saw a decrease in monthly sales by approximately 45% in the very early weeks of the pandemic, though one year later (April 2021), monthly sales were up by 155%.
Although tech-related hobbies may not necessarily have been immensely popular during the pandemic, there were undoubtedly more searches and purchases amid the pandemic than prior to it. And technology still had a major, indisputable impact on how things were navigated – especially when it came to work and school. Whether that will translate to a broader interest in computers and technology for hobbyists throughout the country remains to be seen, but it certainly can’t be overstated that Americans had much more of an interest in it during the peak of the pandemic – at a time when it was being relied on perhaps more than ever before.