2020 brought a lot of unexpected changes to our lives, and a lot of expected changes that happened much faster than anyone could have ever expected. Shifts in working habits, particularly working remotely, which had been underway thanks to technology for years, suddenly advanced in a few months what would have likely taken ten years.
As 2021 promises a return to “normal,” there are several personal trends that won’t be turning around anytime soon.
The boom in video games won’t fade
2020 was a huge year for video gaming as stay-at-home lifestyles provided the time to both play all types of games, and build fancy gaming PC systems and personal entertainment spaces. The prices and supply of all the major components for gaming PCs were affected, from video cards to computer cases, as well as often high-priced enhancements to the gaming space such as RGB smart lighting, curved screens and the surprisingly popular gaming chair.
The madness and supply issues around the release of the next generation gaming consoles, specifically Sony’s PlayStation 5 and Microsoft’s XBox X, capped an already frenzied year. This was especially true for the Nintendo Switch and their huge hit, Animal Crossing: New Horizons. Gaming popularity spanned generations, as well as gender, and will stay strong in 2021 and beyond, especially as a new generation of kids seem to be more addicted to video games than ever before, thanks somewhat to this year’s lockdowns (and parents hogging the TVs to watch Netflix).
Continued decline of smoking in favour of vaping
While smoking has been in decline for decades, there has been an even quicker decline, particularly among younger smokers, over the last couple of years. This has been largely due to the perceived relative benefits of vaping versus smoking. Traditional tobacco smoking, along with its serious health risks and increasing social stigma, also suffers from high costs, strong odours offensive to many, and very strict regulations on where one can smoke.
Vaping avoids many of these problems, eliminates the need for a lighter or match, and allow for a greater variety of flavours and experiences, so it is not surprising to see a continued shift away from traditional smoking. There is also a wide range of devices allowing users to personalize their experience, from small pencil thin electronic cigarettes, to electronic old-school pipes, and even bong-like vaporizers such as those available from Puffco Peak.
The lockdowns of the last year have likely accelerated this trend, with people in close quarters in their homes and apartments with partners and other family members, as more discreet consumption is likely happening. On a regulatory note, Health Canada has recently committed itself to lowering the current nicotine content on vaping products to a level similar to that of the European Union (20 mg/ml), although some in the industry worry this may lead to a return to smoking by some consumers. It will likely not greatly affect the decline of smoking, and smoking culture in favour of vaping this year and in the years ahead.
Online shopping reaches the tipping point
Obviously people have been slowly embracing online shopping in lieu of good ol’ bricks and mortar stores for years, but it had been a slow uptake, particularly amongst the older half of the population. But that all changed with the lockdowns and paranoia about being out (and shopping) in public, especially for older adults. Tens of millions who had previously only used the internet to anonymously research and compare prices before heading off to the physical store for the actual purchase were suddenly opening Amazon Prime accounts for the first time, handing over their credit card and personal info and ordering everything they could think of, daily in many cases.
This is a significant shift, one that will bode well for companies like Amazon (and UPS), but very poorly for countless retailers, and their millions of employees, as customers will be very unlikely to pare back their online buying anywhere near enough to help salvage the majority of the retail landscape.