We’re Spending Billions on This Work-From-Home Indulgence - Kanebridge News
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We’re Spending Billions on This Work-From-Home Indulgence

Without the boss nearby, who can resist placing that Amazon order?

Tue, May 21, 2024 9:18amGrey Clock 4 min

Click. Scroll. Add to cart. Now toggle back to that Zoom meeting.

On our remote days, it turns out, we shop while we work. Researchers say it’s driving billions in online sales. There we all are, browsing everything from toothpaste to concert tickets while nodding along on a video call , keying in credit-card info in between dashing off emails to the boss.

Shopping away our entire workday is obviously a bad move. But indulging in a little isn’t going to tank productivity. We pause and procrastinate at the office, too, in ways that are acceptable there. At home, we gather around clothing reviews like we’re hanging out at the office water cooler, and tick errands off our list via Target.com.

With no one looking over our shoulders, we can puncture the monotony of another vanilla workday with the dopamine high of finding the perfect pair of shoes. Even if we might sometimes regret it.

“I wouldn’t have bought this stupid thing if it weren’t for All Hands,” Megan Morreale , a content marketer in New Jersey, thought to herself after purchasing an influencer’s branded candle during a companywide meeting. Bored or between calls, the 32-year-old scrolls Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. Days later, subpar art supplies or a viral dress that really doesn’t suit her land on her doorstep. Oh well.

“It’s a little bit of fun during the day,” she says, without the fear you’ll look like a slacker At the office, she would never. “All the guilt is completely gone when you work from home.”

A $375 billion boost

Our collective retail therapy adds up. New research from Stanford University, Northwestern University and the Mastercard Economics Institute, the payments company’s research arm, finds the pandemic prompted a rise in online shopping that’s persisted. Last year, for example, we spent $375 billion more than we would have otherwise, the report estimates.

The brunt of that bump is being driven by people working hybrid or fully remote schedules, says Nick Bloom , a Stanford economist and co-author. County-level data shows that in areas where work-from-home jobs are prevalent, online shopping is up, while it’s back to pre pandemic levels in places where more folks work in-person.

Along with walking the dog and getting a jump on dinner, workday shopping is a way to make efficient use of our time, Bloom says, and take advantage of the fact that we have more control over it at home.

“People just can’t work continuously without taking a break,” he says.

Get away without leaving your desk

At home, there’s freedom and time, but also often inertia.

“There’s no coffee break, there’s no somebody’s birthday,” says Ace Bhattacharjya , chief executive of a company that helps folks access their medical records.

Instead, there’s perusing a limited-edition sneaker drop, or collectible figurines on eBay, Bhattacharjya says, recalling some of his recent scrolling. Everything in stores looks the same these days, he finds, but online he can jump down a rabbit hole into random micro communities and inspiration. Turning his attention from the work on his computer monitor to e-commerce on his iPad Pro gives him a jolt of creativity and energy.

Besides, the lines between work and everything else have grown hazy. Bhattacharjya’s hours bleed into the weekends. That can feel like permission to wedge some personal stuff into the workweek.

Ooh, a sale!

Weekly online spending peaks from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays , as the workweek slows to its languorous end, data from Adobe shows. More than a quarter of women surveyed last year by shopping portal Rakuten said they typically shop online during work hours. For Gen Z, the share was 41%.

Jenny Hirschey , who runs an Instagram jewellery shop from St. Paul, Minn., was surprised to find about 80% of her sales are made during the workday.

“I get comments all the time like, ‘I’m running to a meeting but this heart charm is mine! Sold! I’ll pay you in 30 minutes,’” she says.

Big retailers have noticed the trend, too, says Liza Amlani , a retail consultant and adviser based in Toronto who’s worked with companies like Under Armour and Lands’ End.

Some of her clients are timing things like product drops and marketing emails around noon or 3 p.m.

“We know that you’re on your computer,” captive and craving a pick-me-up, she says.

Retailers have also ramped up their investments in online tech, and are flooding their websites with more product, she adds. Algorithm-powered recommendations are getting so powerful it can feel like they know your subconscious desires before you do. Oh, and did you forget about that item you halfheartedly popped in your cart? Here’s 20% off.

“You’re getting so much more of that reminder and that call to buy,” says Nancy Wong , a consumer psychologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The seduction of online shopping

Bricks-and-mortar browsing comes with unknowns and annoyances: traffic en route, long lines at the store, finding out what you want isn’t in stock.

In contrast, Wong says, clicking the buy button online brings a satisfying certainty, and a double hit of pleasure. There’s the immediate high of plucking the item from the virtual shelf—then, the anticipation of its arrival. Sure, that gadget might be a flop once it gets here. But it’s on its way.

“It’s so seductive,” says Michelle Drapkin , a therapist in New Jersey who works a hybrid schedule.

When she worked for a big healthcare company years back, she’d never dream of pulling up Amazon on her office computer.

On her work-from-home days now, she’ll sometimes flop on her bed with a laptop and check purchases off her to-do list. It’s relaxing, she says. “I can do something different than work that’s still productive.”

Some purchases, like groceries, keep her household running. Others, like a new dress for a Kentucky Derby party, feel like a treat.

By the time the purchase arrives, though, she’s usually forgotten what’s inside the box.


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These stocks are getting hit for a reason. Instead, focus on stocks that show ‘relative strength.’ Here’s how.

Wed, Jun 12, 2024 4 min

A lot of investors get stock-picking wrong before they even get started: Instead of targeting the top-performing stocks in the market, they focus on the laggards—widely known companies that look as if they are on sale after a period of stock-price weakness.

But these weak performers usually are going down for good reasons, such as for deteriorating sales and earnings, market-share losses or mutual-fund managers who are unwinding positions.

Decades of Investor’s Business Daily research shows these aren’t the stocks that tend to become stock-market leaders. The stocks that reward investors with handsome gains for months or years are more often  already  the strongest price performers, usually because of outstanding earnings and sales growth and increasing fund ownership.

Of course, many investors already chase performance and pour money into winning stocks. So how can a discerning investor find the winning stocks that have more room to run?

Enter “relative strength”—the notion that strength begets more strength. Relative strength measures stocks’ recent performance relative to the overall market. Investing in stocks with high relative strength means going with the winners, rather than picking stocks in hopes of a rebound. Why bet on a last-place team when you can wager on the leader?

One of the easiest ways to identify the strongest price performers is with IBD’s Relative Strength Rating. Ranked on a scale of 1-99, a stock with an RS rating of 99 has outperformed 99% of all stocks based on 12-month price performance.

How to use the metric

To capitalise on relative strength, an investor’s search should be focused on stocks with RS ratings of at least 80.

But beware: While the goal is to buy stocks that are performing better than the overall market, stocks with the highest RS ratings aren’t  always  the best to buy. No doubt, some stocks extend rallies for years. But others will be too far into their price run-up and ready to start a longer-term price decline.

Thus, there is a limit to chasing performance. To avoid this pitfall, investors should focus on stocks that have strong relative strength but have seen a moderate price decline and are just coming out of weeks or months of trading within a limited range. This range will vary by stock, but IBD research shows that most good trading patterns can show declines of up to one-third.

Here, a relative strength line on a chart may be helpful for confirming an RS rating’s buy signal. Offered on some stock-charting tools, including IBD’s, the line is a way to visualise relative strength by comparing a stock’s price performance relative to the movement of the S&P 500 or other benchmark.

When the line is sloping upward, it means the stock is outperforming the benchmark. When it is sloping downward, the stock is lagging behind the benchmark. One reason the RS line is helpful is that the line can rise even when a stock price is falling, meaning its value is falling at a slower pace than the benchmark.

A case study

The value of relative strength could be seen in Google parent Alphabet in January 2020, when its RS rating was 89 before it started a 10-month run when the stock rose 64%. Meta Platforms ’ RS rating was 96 before the Facebook parent hit new highs in March 2023 and ran up 65% in four months. Abercrombie & Fitch , one of 2023’s best-performing stocks, had a 94 rating before it soared 342% in nine months starting in June 2023.

Those stocks weren’t flukes. In a study of the biggest stock-market winners from the early 1950s through 2008, the average RS rating of the best performers before they began their major price runs was 87.

To see relative strength in action, consider Nvidia . The chip stock was an established leader, having shot up 365% from its October 2022 low to its high of $504.48 in late August 2023.

But then it spent the next four months rangebound—giving up some ground, then gaining some back. Through this period, shares held between $392.30 and the August peak, declining no more than 22% from top to bottom.

On Jan. 8, Nvidia broke out of its trading range to new highs. The previous session, Nvidia’s RS rating was 97. And that week, the stock’s relative strength line hit new highs. The catalyst: Investors cheered the company’s update on its latest advancements in artificial intelligence.

Nvidia then rose 16% on Feb. 22 after the company said earnings for the January-ended quarter soared 486% year over year to $5.16 a share. Revenue more than tripled to $22.1 billion. It also significantly raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the quarter that was to end in April. In all, Nvidia climbed 89% from Jan. 5 to its March 7 close.

And the stock has continued to run up, surging past $1,000 a share in late May after the company exceeded that guidance for the April-ended quarter and delivered record revenue of $26 billion and record net profit of $14.88 billion.

Ken Shreve  is a senior markets writer at Investor’s Business Daily. Follow him on X  @IBD_KShreve  for more stock-market analysis and insights, or contact him at  ken.shreve@investors.com .