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Thursday, February 4, 2021

A New Lexicon for 2021: So Long Pivot, Pods and Social Distancing. Hello, Comfort, Flexibility and Biophilia

 I recently penned a 5,000-word opus on behalf of Hawkins International that envisages the lexicon that will dominate the headlines in 2021. The list includes seven words that have come to the fore due to the effects of the pandemic. Here’s a peek. 


What is comfort post-COVID? It’s about feeling good mentally and physically. Consumers will be looking for products and practices that produce good vibrations and extend a sense of safety and security as well. The desire for comfort spans all sectors, from growth in athleisure wear, to increased sales of residential wellness equipment, to getting “back to basics” with crafting, home cooking, and comfort food to soothe the soul.

 COVID Ushered in a Crafting Craze 

Cue Cottagecore is a lifestyle aesthetic centered on everything warm, fuzzy and nostalgic. Introduced on social media channels a couple years ago, Cottagecore absolutely boomed in 2020. As Gemma Riberti, head of interiors at WGSN Lifestyle & Interiors explained, nostalgia “has an incredibly reassuring power. In times of uncertainty, a well-known past is looked at with fondness and longing.” That’s why so many people locked down at home turned to arts and crafts and home cooking, harkening back to simpler times. Even Taylor Swift got in on the act, ushering the comeback of cable knit cardigans and American folk music with the release of the best-selling album of 2020

A cozy cottage on the coast of Norway

Cottagecore extended to our “cottages.” As Etsy trend expert Dayna Isom Johnson noted, “From calming, nature-inspired hues to dreamy, cozy shapes to the simplicity of bygone eras, we’re all looking to our domestic spaces to bring that sense of comfort, stability, and solace we can’t find elsewhere in the world.”

The meaning of comfort has expanded during COVID, with privacy and space becoming huge factors in comfort expectations. Many are seeking out wide-open expanses in nature, private villas or glamping-style suites for vacations, second homes in less-populated areas, and transportation via private jet. Even mass carrier Delta won big during the pandemic with its promise to keep middle seats empty.

In the hospitality space, we saw increased interest in self-catering accommodations, and hotels rejiggering public areas to create more private nooks. Many also utilized suites as private dining rooms: Bloomberg News cited several hotels that adopted this strategy, including the Eliot Hotel in Boston, where in-house dining spot Uni employed a handful of rooms to serve ramen and sushi accompanied by piped-in music. Montage Kapalua Bay moved its traditional beachside luau into residential-style guestrooms, offering safe places for guests to experience Polynesian food, dance and music.

In-room Dining at The Peninsula

Comfort post-COVID will also entail enhancing feelings of safety and security, largely through perceived hygiene. Retail, restaurants and hospitality will need to make their cleaning protocols front and center. For example, since last spring, United has been publicizing its CleanPlus program, a partnership with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic. Hyatt was among the hotel companies setting up programs with rigorous safety and cleanliness protocols. Other hotels are working to build consumer trust and comfort with verified health security systems such as Sharecare Health Security VERIFIED® with Forbes Travel Guide, a tech-enabled verification system that establishes a consistent global baseline for health security across more than 360 expert-validated standards.

Many new cleanliness protocols are bound to stick at airports, just as post-9/11 security enhancements did. Kevin Burke, president and CEO of Airports Council International – North America recently told NBC News that “those technologies and protocols include sanitizing robots, restrooms that alert maintenance crews when cleaning is needed [and] contactless check-in, bag check and credential authentication.”

The relationship between comfort and nature was never stronger than during the pandemic and it will continue far into the future, which is why it's the next lexeme on our list. The word “biophilia” stems from the Greek for “life” and “love,” suggesting humanity’s innate biological connection with nature. It’s why we find a walk in the woods so soothing and natural light so stimulating. Basically, biophilia is why nature makes us feel better.

More on that in the next blog post.

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