Britons navigate lockdown with couture, tequila and kimchi

British consumers have spent their six weeks of coronavirus lockdown sewing, drinking cocktails, performing beauty treatments at home and eating copious amounts of kimchi.

That’s according to a report by John Lewis Partnership PLC on the country’s buying behavior since March 23, when Prime Minister Boris Johnson told everyone to stay home unless absolutely necessary. The partnership, which owns the John Lewis department store and Waitrose grocery chains popular with Britain’s middle classes, said “everyday life for Britons across the UK has been transformed as we have adapted to new new ways of life”.

Research has shown that sales of rubber bands at John Lewis have increased 15 times as people make their own face masks, amid a shortage of personal protective equipment in the UK. In fact, “the nation’s love for haberdashery is stronger than ever with strong demand for sewing machines, embroidery and knitting yarn,” the retailer said in the report.

The British are drinking and eating more too. Tequila sales increased 175% and liquor sales jumped 78% as consumers enjoyed new cocktails at home.

“With our favorite pubs and bars sadly closed, we’ve seen the rise of the ‘trying it out’ bartender at home,” said John Vine, a spirits buyer at Waitrose. “People are buying more unusual ingredients, such as tequila and triple sec, to make that perfect drink to stay at home.”

Sales of kimchi, a popular vegetable dish in South Korea, increased by 43%. Waitrose said this was in line with survey findings that almost half of shoppers surveyed said they were eating “differently” during lockdown. Online searches for cuisines, including Japanese and Thai cuisine, also all saw strong increases, the upscale grocer said.

Most UK businesses have remained closed since Johnson ordered the closure. With the economy faltering, the Prime Minister promised to set out a roadmap for lifting restrictions on Sunday, with some changes to follow from Monday.

Online shopping has figured prominently in lockdown life. Sales of decorative bedding more than doubled and purchases of landline telephones increased by 80%. Citizens across the country are also apparently investing in products to help them look their best on video calls, with sales of “colorful makeup palettes” up 57% and self-tanning products up 41%. Skincare sales have nearly tripled in the past six weeks, as have face masks and hair treatments.

People are gardening and exercising more, judging by their purchases, and playing board games like Monopoly. Letter writing is back fashionable moreover, stamp sales doubling their usual rate throughout the lockdown “as people send a letter instead of seeing their loved ones”.

The findings were based on the OnePoll survey of 2,000 UK adults, combined with sales data and online research from the two retailers.

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