TV sales up as people invest in extra sets to avoid family members

There was a time when gathering around the television to watch a family-friendly show was a group affair - with people using the time in front of the living room TV set as a rare opportunity to bond with loved ones.

Sales of TV sets rose by more than 50 per cent.

But now, as families are forced to spend more time together amid a lockdown in the UK to fight the spread of coronavirus, they are investing in an increased number of separate TVs in a bid to carve out some alone time.

TV sales in Britain jumped in the week to 21 March, according to figures from GfK, up 59.5 per cent compared to the same week last year. The amount of money spent on television sets also rose by 43 per cent. The increase was driven by higher sales of smaller screen sizes of 42 inches or less, suggesting that people are opting to buy smaller TVs to watch in personal bedrooms or spare rooms rather than replacing their main television set.

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The same report found that while watching old-school Blu-ray and DVD discs has enjoyed a resurgence as people dig out favourite films to watch while stuck at home, premium TV packages have suffered a downturn, driven by the lack of live sporting events available amid mass cancellations across the globe.

Kelly Whitwick, UK retail lead for Market insights at GfK, said: “Despite the jump in sales, the average price point of the overall purchases is at its lowest point seen this year. This suggests people are buying basic models for practical solutions, rather than splashing out to enhance the viewing experience with a better model.

“Basically, people are facing having their entire household at home every day; possibly with the need to keep distance from each other, and almost certainly with very different views on what they want to watch – so they are quickly buying an extra TV to spread out around the house.”

Looking at what people are watching, the percentage of viewers frequently watching DVDs or Blu-ray discs increased from five per cent in the week of 2 March to 11 per cent the week after. Likewise, ‘download to own’ content viewing has jumped from four per cent up to nine per cent.

On the other hand, there has been a drop in access to premium TV packages, such as Sky Sports - from 24 per cent in the week of 2 March to 20 per cent the following week.

Sam Tuck, associate director of consumer insights at GfK, said: “Given the lack of live sports content available to view at the moment, we anticipate further drops in those accessing premium sport viewing services in the coming weeks.

“Instead, we expect a rise in people signing up to video-on-demand platforms – albeit potentially only on a short-term or trial basis. Whether this will have a long-term benefit for the services, with people retaining subscriptions at the end of their trials, is something we will be tracking.”

Other types of goods are also benefiting from a rise in sales amid the lockdown.

A separate study from The NPD Group showed in-store and online sales of prestige hand soaps from brands such as L’Occitane and Clarins have increased significantly in the UK. Since 23 February, the week of the public health announcement from Prime Minister Boris Johnson instructing citizens to regularly wash their hands, sales of luxury and prestige hand soaps have seen double digit growth.

Retailer Halfords is also reporting a rise in sales of exercise bikes, while John Lewis says it has seen a “significant uplift” in home gym equipment and other fitness products.