At home just outside Orlando, Florida, Rhonda Camen has a stockpile of about 100 jigsaw puzzles. At the rate she's going, she figures that should last her until the end of the year.
Camen, who retired about a year and a half ago, picked up puzzling as a hobby to keep her mind active and to give herself something to do while she listens to audiobooks. She can knock out a 1,000-piece puzzle in a couple of days. And since the coronavirus pandemic has kept her at home, her puzzle game is stronger than ever.
It keeps her mind off the troubles of the world.
"I like images that are bright,” she says, “especially in the world we're in right now. I've got two family members in Detroit in the hospital with COVID, so this is a distraction that's definitely needed."
Surge in puzzle sales
She is not alone in that sentiment. Stay-at-home orders have sent jigsaw puzzles flying off the shelves almost as quickly as toilet paper. Puzzle makers say sales are up 300 to 370 percent over what they were this time a year ago.
"We're seeing sales numbers that are exceeding what we usually experience during December during the height of holiday shopping season,” says Thomas Kaeppeler, president of Ravensburger North America, a leading puzzle brand. “To put that in perspective, Ravensburger sold about seven puzzles per minute in 2019, and so far in 2020, we are looking closer to selling 20 puzzles per minute.”
Ceaco, a leading U.S. puzzle company, did more online sales on one day in March than in all of December, Ceaco President Carol Glazer says.
Suppliers are struggling to keep puzzles in stock because the coronavirus has temporarily shut down factories. But the demand is not letting up. It's not just new-fangled 3D puzzles or mystery boxes that are popular. It's ordinary 300- to 1,000-piece designs of landscapes or artwork or animals that are captivating people. Online puzzle groups have been a growing source for trading puzzles, tracking down ones that are hard to find and becoming virtual water coolers where people can gather, discuss their masterpieces and vent about things they don't like — like missing pieces or flimsy cardboard.
'It's my chill time'
Debra West, 62, an avid puzzler in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, is part of the Facebook group Jigsaw Puzzlers, where she's found kindred spirits.
She's been working from home as a director of human resources and always has a puzzle going for when she takes breaks.
"It's so good to take your mind off of the stress of things in life,” she says. “I just love them."