Health and wellness top of mind for shoppers, says NPD

— It’s not all that shocking to note that over the course of the pandemic consumers focused more intensely on health and wellness. However, what is surprising is the fact that nearly two years after the pandemic hit the U.S., retail sales of products in health and wellness categories continue to match peak growth rates, according to the NPD Group.

“Comparisons to 2020 show that revenue growth of health and wellness categories slowed in 2021 but that’s just part of the story,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for NPD. “Retail sales revenue from those same categories, compared to 2019, have continued to grow by double-digits. This growth seems to indicate that health and wellness is an enduring pandemic trend, which could provide opportunities for continued consumer spending.”

The general consumer focus on health encompasses the mind, body, and home, and is evident in the many industries exhibiting growth: from food and apparel to books and beauty. Leading the way are air purifier filters, massaging appliances, free-weight equipment and sound machines. Sales revenue in each of these categories more than doubled in 2021, versus 2019. Many categories related to cleaning, fitness, and food preparation, storage, and preservation continued to grow by double digits last year, as did books about home, gardening, crafts, hobbies, self-help and cooking.

“As consumers get out into the world and start to spend more on vacations and other experiences, health and wellness is likely to continue to play a role in their lives,” Cohen said. “Now it’s time for retailers and manufacturers to not only retain, but also generate new consumer attention, in a retail landscape where competition for the shopper’s share of wallet will soon expand.”

State insurance consumers received over $15 million in restitution payments in 2021  

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department reclaimed over $15 million last year for more than 41,000 consumers who had funds stolen, payments improperly processed or other forms of restitution or credit as a result of errors or unethical conduct. 

State Acting Insurance Commissioner Michael Humphreys announced the returned money last week, noting that 41,032 consumers around Pennsylvania received some form of restitution payment or credit. 

Examples include restoration of stolen funds when an agent collected payment from a consumer for a policy or annuity but did not send that money to the insurance company or refunding or overcharged premiums when an insurance company was found to be charging premiums above the Insurance Department’s approved rate. 

“Pennsylvania consumers’ rights and protections are guaranteed to them through state law and the Insurance Department works diligently to hold the businesses we regulate accountable,” said Humphreys. “We protect consumers by holding these businesses to the highest standards.” 

In some cases, the department’s findings can result in additional penalties, such as suspension or revocation of a license, being assessed against the offending party. 

In 2021, the department issued more than $512,000 in enforcement penalties for violations of Pennsylvania’s insurance laws. 

Federal safety regulators blasted for letting companies call the shots in report

BOB strollers, pictured, were recalled multiple times due to falling hazards, but Congressional overseers say the Consumer Product Safety Commission didn’t provide enough oversight throughout the recall process PHOTO/U.S. CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was excoriated by overseers in the Senate for allegedly failing to adequately protect U.S. consumers from unsafe and defective products.

The BOB jogging stroller, the Fisher-Price Rock ‘n’ Roll Play inclined infant sleeper and several residential elevators have each been recalled in the last decade after causing injury and death during, but Democratic minority members of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation say the commission put business interests before consumer safety when conducting recalls.

The commission’s alleged lapses in oversight are detailed in a recent report released by minority members on the committee, illustrating instances when the commission, under the leadership of then-Acting Chair Ann Marie Buerkle, relaxed regulations intended to protect consumers.

“An examination of documents associated with both products by Senate Commerce Committee staff shows, however, that the ‘recalls’ agreed to by the commission function less as true remedies for consumers, and more as incentive programs to bring more business to the companies involved in the recalls,” the report’s executive summary says. “Instead of offering refunds for many consumers with defective BOB strollers, the CPSC instead settled for allowing the company to offer coupons towards the purchase of additional products.”

The report alleges the commission’s failures were due to “a pattern of inappropriate deference to industry that has characterized CPSC leadership in recent years,” rather than a lack of legal authority.

Instead of issuing a proper recall and refunds for customers, the commission issued coupons from the company as part of “incentive programs to bring more business to the companies involved in the recalls,” said Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, a ranking member of the committee.

“Consumers and their families should have confidence in the products they buy,” Cantwell said. “Industry and the (commission) need to take action to ensure that consumers aren’t buying dangerous or defective products and that those who do receive a real remedy.”