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Year in Review: How Strategist Readers Shopped in 2020

Photo-Illustration: Retailers

As much as we love talking about our own shopping finds on the Strategist, we’re also always interested in what our readers are buying. And while we typically take a look at your favorites in our monthly Your Shopping Cart feature, we started to wonder as this long, strange year started to come to a close: How did our readers’ shopping habits change in 2020, when just about everything — including school, work, workouts, happy hours, and even grocery shopping — went online?

So we dove into your virtual shopping carts over the last 12 months to answer some of our most nagging questions. Like what was the best-selling thing in January versus March versus July? Which face mask was the most popular? And did anyone buy Steve Kornacki’s Election Night khakis? Here’s a closer look into how you shopped in 2020.

What were our top sellers every month?

We’ll start with an easy one. If you look at the actual number of items sold (rather than the amount of money spent), this is what we’ve got.

January and February were pretty in-line with previous years’ trends: The Oral-B toothbrush was actually our top-selling item of all of 2019, and the Uberlube is a perennial favorite on our monthly roundups of best sellers. But in March, everything shifted toward sanitizing wands to disinfect surfaces, blue-light-blocking glasses for hours in front of the computer, and lots of face masks. Note the change in face-mask preference over time, too: Our readers went from disposable, to reusable, to disposable again.

Which face mask was the most popular?

Though lots of different reusable and disposable face masks were best sellers this year, the one that most of our readers are wearing is the Strategist-tested Vistaprint Dotted Face Mask, which features adjustable ear loops, breathable synthetic fabric, and a bendable wire nose strip. Runners-up were the VIDA Cotton Mask, a double-layer cotton face mask with adjustable ear loops, and the Buck Mason antimicrobial mask, which is made with three layers of the heavyweight cotton the brand uses to make its T-shirts. However, now that disposable masks are more readily available than they were at the start of the pandemic — and the black surgical masks worn by the likes of the Biebers have become something of a fashion statement — these reusable options have become less popular over the course of 2020.

What was the busiest shopping day of 2020?

Photo: Yale Joel/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty

The biggest day of 2020 — when we had the most users on the site, buying the most things — was Black Friday, November 27. Given all of the good sales this year (and postal service delays), we weren’t so surprised that our readers wanted to get a head start on holiday shopping. What was surprising was that even though Prime Day was pushed back to October, it still hasn’t dethroned Black Friday as the biggest sales holiday — yet.

What was the most purchased item on Black Friday?

That would be the ECOGUARD 3-Ply Disposable Face Masks, and not because they were on sale. We published a story on the best (expert-approved) disposable face masks the day before Thanksgiving, and these were described as “very comfortable and fit pretty well without much need for adjustment.” Plus, these three-ply masks pass the candle test with flying colors.

Our second most purchased (and non-pandemic-related) item was Everlane’s Cashmere Sweater Tee, which actually was on sale during Everlane’s first-ever Black Friday sale.

What was Strategist’s most shared story?

Photo: Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Perhaps because we can’t smell them IRL anymore, our most shared story this year — via email or social media — was our expert-recommended guide to perfumes. Writer Dominique Pariso talked to beauty editors, podcasters, jewelry designers, and even our own writers to find all of the best ones (28, to be exact), including this perfume that one writer and podcaster says is “what you wear when you’re invited to the Met Gala.”

Speaking of the Met Gala, what was the most expensive thing anyone bought?

Back in 2018, the most expensive item purchased by one of our readers was a very comfortable-looking, very pricey then-$8,000 massage chair from Kahuna. Two years later, this even more luxurious model — the favorite of Angela Bassett, Anthony Anderson, and Jonathan Cheban — takes the top spot. According to the brand, it automatically scans the body to deliver a custom massage and can memorize a user’s favorite settings — like heating, zero-gravity angle, spine-roller speed, foot-roller speed, and air intensity — to make the experience even more enjoyable. We wouldn’t call the $10,000 price tag soothing, but … at least the shipping’s free.

What was the Strategist’s most popular What I Can’t Live Without?

Illustration: Joe McKendry, Photo: Steve Granitz/WireImage/Getty Images
Photo: retailer

The most popular installment of our celebrity shopping column came just last month, when we spoke to actress, activist, and avid Ina Garten fan Jennifer Garner about her favorite things. Her picks ranged from hair pins to kitchen mixers and cookbooks, but our readers were most taken by her chainmail cast-iron pot scrubber. “This cast-iron scrubber will reignite your love for your cast iron,” Garner told us. “It is so hard to clean, but this takes care of it in a way you didn’t know was possible.”

Which item from our What I Can Live Without auction raised the most money?

Photo-Illustration: Damien Maloney
Photo: retailer

Back in August, we went back to some of our favorite celebrity shoppers to ask them about things that they can live without, and asked if they would be willing to sell them at auction for charity, in partnership with eBay. All of the proceeds went to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and eBay matched every dollar the auction earned. Donated items included Saweetie’s custom Air Force 1’s, Roxane Gay’s favorite Bose headphones, Chris Carrabba’s first guitar strap, and Sandra “Pepa” Denton’s “Push It”–themed snowboard, but it was Joji’s signed Akai keyboard — with 66 total bids and a final bid of $3,250 — that raised the most money. But if we’re talking the highest number of bids, rather than dollars, that would be Phoebe Bridgers’s test pressings, which received 89 bids, and went for an only slightly more modest $3,006.

And how many people bought Steve Kornacki’s khakis?

Photo: Courtesy of CNBC Television/YouTube

While it took days (and it felt like years) for Election Night results to trickle in, lots of folks did seem to quickly come to an agreement on one thing: Steve Kornacki’s tireless, county-by-county forecasts stole the show. After seeing our friends at Vulture debate whether Kornacki’s “butt looks especially good or we’re just slowly being driven mad,” writer Louis Cheslaw found himself taking a closer look at the political correspondent’s bottom half to see if he could identify the pants covering it, and whether they had something to do with making it look as good as our colleagues imagined it did. As it turns out, Kornacki wears this straight-fit, ocher-colored pair from the Gap — and, now, so do 55 of our readers. And while 55 might seem like a humble number, our deputy editor Maxine Builder (who would know) calls that “fairly impressive” for khakis during a pandemic.

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Year in Review: How Strategist Readers Shopped in 2020