AO.com had its third-best sales day ever on the back of an unforeseen rise in the demand for freezers. The company accounts for a fifth of the UK’s home appliance sales, so this finding is significant.
There is usually an increase in freezer sales in the run-up to Christmas but at this time of year, the buying focus is usually on heating and cooking appliances. John Lewis also noted a rise in freezer sales and confirmed that it was unprecedented.
It seems likely that the rise in freezer sales is to allow people to build up stores of food at home, a theory which is supported by the rise in frozen food purchasing reported by retailers including Iceland.
When in doubt, this country’s response is to stockpile food.
While the Government has advised that this is unnecessary as supermarkets are unlikely to suffer from supply issues, the rise in freezer and frozen food purchases is likely a response to increasing chatter about the potential need to self-isolate if the virus outbreak worsens.
The advice is that if someone develops symptoms that could indicate coronavirus, they should remain at home, avoiding public transport and shops.
Nor is freezer-buying the worst form of self-protection we’ve seen in the UK. In January, after a reader had noticed that the label on Dettol advises that it protects against viruses in the coronavirus family, The Sun exhorted people not to drink the antiseptic cleaning fluid in a bid to protect themselves against COVID-19.
Coronavirus has affected appliance buying patterns worldwide. China has responded with an increased interest in household health. Key manufacturers have reported a rise in purchases of healthcare-related home appliances.
Midea has seen a surge in sales of appliances including humidifiers, smart refrigerators and sterilisation devices. Gree Electric Appliances has had a rise in sales of air conditioning units, while Hisense has taken the opportunity to launch an air conditioner it claims can fill a room with fresh air in three minutes.
This makes sense. Even though these appliances won't prevent the virus, if people are stuck at home, air purifiers can improve their indoor air quality, while sterilising items can protect other family members if one is ill. However, the British rebuttal to this is: FROZEN CHIPS.
This change in buying patterns is another example of the way that coronavirus is affecting tech companies, with other results being supply chain disruption, companies including Apple re-forecasting revenue projections and key events in the tech calendar being rescheduled. Meanwhile, consumers are facing an increase in scam emails as fraudsters attempt to capitalise on people’s fears.