How our retail behavior changed during COVID: Initial and lasting changes to our shopping patterns

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How has our retail behaviour changed by Covid and the lockdowns?

In this article I’ll look back to the start of the pandemic when the first retail data came out in May 2020 to see what impact that the pandemic might have had from February to March and see how lockdowns actually change Australians’ behavior.

Shopping2

And when I first looked at the data I had a bit of a chuckle simply because usually between one month to the next you have retail data shifts by ‘zero-point-something’ percentage points, so you don’t see very high shifts month-to-month.

But then we saw a 31% increase in liquor sales, and I figured out, ‘Wow, that is just Australians dealing with the pandemic in the most Australian way!’

But a couple of rows further down the data set I quickly realized that the story isn’t just quite as funny, even though it is probably better from the public health perspective, — we didn’t drink that much more.

During the same time period – from February to March there was a decline of 31% in restaurant and bar visits.

So we didn’t start taking up drinking that much more.

What we really did was change the sales channel through which we consumed alcohol.

That is an interesting observation that a pandemic just not changed the shopping behaviors but also sales channels change.

And, of course, at the very start of the pandemic, there were plenty of losers.

Department stores had to be closed, we didn’t buy clothing, we didn’t see the need to look all that fashionable.

We just hung out at home, so there was no need to buy fancy suits and dresses for the office or social outings.

That was the impact on the first months, but overall we saw the increase in retail sales because if all fun venues — bars, clubs, cinemas — were closed, at least we could go retail shopping.

Remember all those fun outing to Bunnings?

Retail spending

Source: The New Daily

Shopping3But what has happened since then?

There is very fresh hot off-the-press retail data out there as well.

We can now compare February 2020 pre-pandemic retail to May 2021 data that is the latest available data and retail sales actually shot through the roof.

There was a very successful transition with no real losers in Australian retail.

Even the weaker sector — cafes, restaurants, catering sector — still rose by a few per cent, so we finally recovered and the V-shape recovery actually took place in several sectors.

Retail spending

Source: The New Daily

Now that was rather spectacular.

Every single one of the 15 retail categories in Australia increased, and we have massive winners in the furniture sales (of above 25%) which makes sense as we spend more time at home.

And those online mattress shops absolutely flood you with their ads on Facebook until you give in and finally buy a new mattress!

Shopping4Liquor sales are still up but that it is, of course, due to the restaurant closures and due to lockdowns around Australia.

But overall the retail sectors that increased the most are the sectors that provide us lifestyle.

Australia is obsessed with lifestyle and we are not willing to go back on this as we are a rich nation.

Most people, even those who lost their jobs during the pandemic, managed really well, and we do this by shopping and by engaging in ‘retail therapy’.

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About

Simon Kuestenmacher is one of Australia’s leading demographers, co-founder of The Demographics Group, a regular media commentator, a columnist for the Australian and one of the world’s Top 50 Influencers in Data Science.
www.SimonKuestenmacher.com


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