People are splurging on luxury goods during the coronavirus pandemic
Call it a spendemic.
“I’ve bought an area rug, a coffee table, prints for the walls, a mirror and plants,” says Jackson Isaacson, 27, who estimates he’s spent nearly $4,000 since self-isolating due to the novel coronavirus outbreak a month ago. “I could’ve gone for a cheap coffee table but I went for a chic, nice one from West Elm. It’s mid-century looking and walnut,” says the marketer. “I love it.”
Stuck at home amid shelter-in-place orders, New Yorkers are turning to their screens for entertainment, connection — and retail therapy, especially those lucky enough to be healthy and employed, or anticipating a stimulus check. “When you’re in a state of anxiety, you’re worried about what’s going to happen,” says Carrie Rattle, a financial counselor based in Westchester who focuses on curbing clients’ compulsive shopping habits.
Rattle says e-commerce can give panicked spenders a sense of control.
“Shopping takes your mind away from the harshness of everyday life,” she says. “We wake up and we have no idea what the rules of the world are going to be today, so [shopping] is self-soothing.”
The first week of April saw a 13 percent uptick in online purchases compared to pre-COVID times according to the NPD Group, a market research company. And apparently, it’s only going up. A 700-person study from Influence Central found that 72 percent plan to do even more online shopping in the isolated days to come.
In addition to furniture, Isaacson has sprung for athleisure, top-shelf liquor and a $70 Malin+Goetz candle since he began quarantining in his Financial District apartment. Still, he insists he’s saving money, noting that without his gym membership and nights out at restaurants and bars draining his account, he has cash to spare on luxe goods.
“I can buy the big Ketel One for the same price as two martinis at the steakhouse I used to go to near me,” says Isaacson.
Amalia Rand, 19, who works in tech sales, is shopping for new outfits and sneakers she anticipates wearing to her own birthday party and out to museums when the stay-at-home order is up.
“There’s no reason to go shopping, I’m not going outside. But then I see that there are sales,” says Rand, who lives in East Harlem. “I bought a skirt, some tote bags, blouses and jeans from [UK-based site] ASOS.” She also copped wares from Rihanna’s lingerie line Savage X Fenty and the sneaker-reselling platform StockX, including $300 Nike Jordan 1s and $60 Vans. She estimates that she’s spent about $1,000 on wardrobe upgrades. “I’m just hoping I can be outside in them soon,” she says.
Stylist Susan Breindel has shifted her interests from clothes to CBD, a cannabis-plant derivative. Breindel left her Noho home in such a rush last month that she arrived at her weekend house in Ulster County without her Toast Wellness CBD oil she’s used for the past year and a half to feel “calm.” When she went online to stockpile the oil, she stumbled upon the brand’s artisanal CBD-infused chocolates that cost $20 a bar.
“I’m not a snob, but I love very good food, wine, chocolate,” says Breindel, 61, who estimates she “spent several hundred dollars” on the decadent haul.
“Who cares about clothes or fashion right now? We’re eating and cooking well,” she says of her and her husband.
Rare trips to the grocery store can also become an opportunity to indulge.
“I’ve spent about a hundred bucks on cheeses in the past few weeks,” says Adam Morey, a lobbyist who lives in Albany. He’s been going for top-shelf Taleggio, Camembert and triple-cream brie, and says he’s “nerding out” on online cheese forums.
“I call it the end-of-the-world cheese,” adds Morey, 33.
Some people in isolation who dream of a decadent meal in a favorite locale have to settle for the next best thing: pricey nationwide delivery.
“We’ve been ordering food from all over the country through Goldbelly,” says Fran Pessagno, a single Long Island-based advertising exec who’s been holed up with a couple of friends in their Candlewood Lake, Conn., home for the past month. The group splurges on deliveries — which easily crack $150 each — twice a week. Pessagno estimates he’s spent $1,750 in the past month on food alone.
The 45-year-old, who regularly travels for work, says he’s ordering from places he was supposed to visit before the coronavirus restrictions. When a conference in New Orleans was canceled, for example, he ordered muffuletta sandwiches with olive spread for delivery from Central Grocery. Last week was supposed to be a trip to Chicago, so it was Lou Malnati’s deep-dish pizza for dinner on Tuesday, while Thursday was 8 pounds “of just meat” from Joe’s Kansas City Bar-B-Que.
“This allows us to feel like we’re living a normal life — and takes us to places we’re familiar with that we can’t visit now. It takes us to Chicago or New Orleans for a brief moment,” he says, adding that it’s also a way to give back to small businesses around the country. “We’re eating very well — and I like to think we’re doing something good for the economy.”
Reem Abbassi, a 44-year-old hedge fund project manager, also wanted a taste of her pre-quarantine life. So she signed up for an online group class hosted by Rare Champagne and Petrossian caviar, which included Champagne and caviar home delivery for $270 per person.
“Most people are staying at home in small apartments, in yoga pants, so it’s one night of the week to at least dress up — and feel like you’re living the life that many of us moved to New York to live,” says Abbassi, who styled her hair and put on a little black dress and heels for the Zoom call.
It was a delicious distraction from reality.
“For a moment, in that hour, it’s easy to forget you are in quarantine.”
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