top of page
  • jen

A Crafty Week 7


Puzzled by lockdown?

A jigsaw puzzle, often stored away for gloomy weekends or the dust sweeped off for the days between Boxing day and New Year, have become the nation’s favourite toy in the last couple months since lockdown began.

According to the Guardian,sales of board games and jigsaw puzzles soared by 240% in the first week of lockdown. Among our own friends, we have witnessed Instagram stories displaying puzzle swaps, where post completion a puzzle is delivered to a friend’s doorstep to do. While most of us are proud of our Instagram worthy 1000 puzzle piece, Kodak have attempted to capitalise on the trend and have bought to market a grotesquely oversized ‘world’s largest puzzle’. This 51,000-piece puzzle weighs as much as a small dog and the width is the length of a grown man. Meanwhile,Disney’s 40k piece puzzle has sold out online.

But why have we all gone puzzle crazy?

For the majority, this trend appears to have evolved because we want to keep engaged, stimulated, and feel a sense of competition with a task.Art galleries across the UK are creating online jigsaw versions of their collections, bringing joy in to people’s homes, whilst also educating on the artwork. Capturing our attention this week were the wonderful jigsaws that the New York Times have created of thousands of front covers since their launch in 1851 to now. What was originally a gift idea, will now be of great appeal to many others.

For younger people, who are most likely to adapt new trends and innovations, social conformity plays a role, as people want to be seen mastering the latest skill, or upload the most triumphant Inst-igsaw! However, the owners of puzzle business, Inner Piece, argue that it is a wholesome self-care activity that alleviates stress and anxiety, whilst bringing people together and providing quality time. They said,‘This collaborative element, which isn't as strong in other "old-fashioned" hobbies like colouring or needlework, is one reason people reach for puzzle boxes over remotes or tablets when they're craving quality time’

Speaking of collaboration,Jiggy, a puzzle retailer in the US, have sent out blank puzzles to female artists to paint commissions on, and are auctioning them off so proceeds can be shared with female artists struggling financially due to COVID-19. This is smart as knowing they can leverage a growing trend, they are able to support a brilliant cause.

For businesses it may seem as little more than a simple game, for a consumer to spend time looking at your brand whilst putting a puzzle together. But scratch below the surface and you begin to see that used properly a well-designed and interesting puzzle can offer much more. It can be used as a gift for key PR contacts or journalists, used as a stop gap with customers who may be faced with a waiting list, or used as a database builder by way of a competition giveaway or referral reward. Just be sure to make the image interesting and detailed, rather than a large block coloured image of your product or logo!

Which, ironically is exactly what Heinz have done in making their 'Ketchup Puzzle' with 570 red pieces to keep you busy while you're stuck at home. We secretly love their wit. 

The new world of Animal Crossing 

Another type of game in the limelight is Nintendo’s Animal Crossing: New Horizons, which was released during lockdown. And quickly became the worlds most downloaded paid for game. The popularity of the simple Sims-like game is based on its escapism offering factors, allowing players to build and craft their own worlds. The popularity of the game is down to the fact its designed to be shared with others, whether you are selling turnips or trying to build a mega-mansion. But unlike many games that reward only the most hardcore of players (think FIFA or Fortnite), Animal Crossing rewards players whether they spend a few hours a week or a day in their virtual world. And of course, like remora fish clinging to a whale shark various brands and celebrities have started to find ways to legitimately enter this world too. Take for instance Garry Whitta, leading video games journalist and developer, who built his own virtual studio in the game and then proceeded to host a late-night talk show live in the game. If you build it they will come, and then they will build something and more will come, quite literally a virtual field of dreams!

Then enterprising antics don’t stop there however, and given the huge growth in popularity of the game, virtual interior design consultants have opened up business to help those who want a hand building their worlds. Added to this, the bonkers world of street wear has snuck in, with many fans recreating fashions lines from the likes of Supreme to Burberry for players to buy in game and dress their oversized headed characters with.

Changing landscape of retail

Mid-March, the news of lockdown across the world hit the UK, and people prepared for a long time spent indoors, consumers flooded the shops in a state of panic buying, stripping the supermarkets of toilet roll, dry food and paracetamol. A domino effect of mass panic meant the shops were bear and those most vulnerable without basic weekly essentials. In Great British fashion, we are now instructed to form an orderly queue, waiting 2 metres apart, with almost all supermarkets only allowing a few customers in at a time. What will happen when the high street gradually reopens, will the same queues be winding their way along Oxford Street? Pre-Covid, the high street had already become blighted by lower footfall numbers and rising costs of real estate and the growth in ecommerce, driven by Amazon, Ebay, ASOS to name a few. With the closing down of high street this has only accelerated the shift with more transactions moving online. It is going to be extremely tough for the high street to recover post COVID-19, with some brands already into administration like Laura Ashley, others closing stores such as Oasis, Warehouse and H&M. In fact, one fifth of high street stores are unlikely to reopen once the crisis is over. Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said it has been the "worst time ever for retail" after the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK. A recent Mckinsey report revealed that post COVID-19 consumers will be looking to reduce the amount of time spent in physical stores, in malls and supermarkets, whist increasing their shopping online.

Currently for consumers there is continued uncertainty about the economy, due to how long restrictive measures will continue and concern around public health, not to mention the increased financial strain many households now face. This sentiment and experiences are having a huge impact on consumer purchasing behaviour as people are trying to cut back on spending, purchasing only for essentials and in-home entertainment/activities. According to one report, up to 40% of consumers during COVID are cutting back spending and being more careful with their outgoings.

Initially consumers were stocking up on groceries, leaving online retailers with a waiting queue of hours to days to weeks. Fitness equipment was sold out everywhere with everyone creating their in- home gym in the panic of gyms shutting, home DIY and garden materials quickly ran out. And as people quickly tried to create and in-home office, office supplies were top of the list to. All of which was supposedly ‘necessity buying’.

Once we adapted to the life of 24/7 at home, online retail traffic became more prolonged browsing and focusing more at comfort and in-home leisure.  You only have to scroll on Instagram to experience brands pushing ‘The comfort economy’, encouraging the sales of in-home spa treatments, CBD relaxation products, Egyptian cotton bedding or pyjamas. Consumers are looking for that little bit of ‘self-care’ delivered to their doorstep

Along with the types of products that people are buying there has been in a shift in priority when it comes to purchasing.Bazaarvoice have reported the main motivator of purchasing now is availability, which is no surprise given that almost 60% of respondents have experience product shortages when they need to buy something. Recent research from PWC shows that consumers are 50% more willing to try new brands at this time. This change in priority could prove an opportunity for brands to get in front of their consumer as this time could present a change in brand loyalty if new and more available brands are discovered during their time browsing/purchasing. According to McKinsey, this trend is already coming into fruition with nearly 20% of consumers switching up their main grocery or retailers, with 50% of them intending to stick with new choices in the future.

One reason for this shift in brand loyalty might have something to do with people wanting to support local businesses as communities club together. Instagram are encouraging users to post stories supporting their favourite small businesses and this just highlights this shift in behaviour.  With long queues at supermarkets and the financial threat to local businesses, there is a movement to make sure we are doing are bit to keep them afloat. Mintel reported this as ‘localism’ where people in the community will encourage others to ‘champion their local community businesses’

We have a hunch, and based on our own personal experiences, that consumers are being choosier, and spending more time researching and seeking out the best options. We have more time on our hands to think about the things we want to buy and less financially secure to make the wrong investment. Google trends data (see image below), is showing us that this might just be the case.  

Mintel have written a report on ‘How COVID-19 brought the future forward’ and this might just be true for retail. Are we finally resist the temptations of throw away culture fuelled in part by fast fashion brands? Has e-commerce become the new high street and when we do go out to shop, will we focus on supporting the local and small business economy?

Will face masks be the airport purchase, not sunglasses?

As we start to emerge from the four walls of our homes, and with Boris’ announcement that we can begin to have more interaction with other households and spend longer outdoors, it does make use wonder, how many of us will insist on wearing a face mask.

The evidence of how much they can do to actually protect us from the virus is unclear and there are strong opposing views on the subject, however one thing is for certain,fashion houses are already preparing for mass consumption of masks and making sure that they are ‘on trend’. At the end of the day, they will be the most visible garment that is noticed and locking away one of the warmer gestures we can give, our smiles, we would argue there is definitely a space for fashionable masks. Particularly if it is going to encourage the wearing of them, if we do find out that they are essential for preventing transmission.

We mustn’t forget the sole reason for wearing them though, and the desperate demand on the frontline for proper protection.Boohoo were criticized by the NHS nurses for marketing a mask that would lack real protection and its slogan ‘Eat. Sleep. Isolate, repeat’ was said to cause great upset. One Nurse stated ‘Boohoo are selling useless ‘PPE’ fashion masks that are of no use to the public and are using their greed to make a mockery of people on the frontline”. If brands are going to supply for this need they will need to do it with respect and ensure that they are clear to customers have protective the mask actually is vs being a fashion accessory.

High snobiety have reported data suggesting that hype around fashion face masks will replace that of sneakers. A massive claim, but looking at recent searches since COVID-19, perhaps there is some real truth in this.

Once international travel is reinforced, the likelihood of packing masks will be high. Have you ever had that moment at the airport of ‘oh gosh, I have forgotten my sunnies, I need to go and get some Raybans’ (even if most of the time we haven’t actually forgotten, we just want new glasses!) Perhaps, the time will come where we will rush to ‘Facemask hut’ to choose the latest Gucci mask to take to Ibiza.

A Crafty thumbs up

 Dreams research  Submit your dreams as part of a wider research piece for sleeping during lockdown  Working from home jammies Japan-based creative agency Whatever teamed up with designer Akihiko Kimura to release WFH Jammies: with a button-down shirt up top — that looks formal and appropriate on work video calls. Serious Tissues  This month, UK-based social enterprise Change Please launched Serious Tissues: A line of recycled toilet paper for which all proceeds are donated to the NHS.

78 views0 comments


bottom of page