What Are People Spending their Money on During the Coronavirus ‘Lockdown’?

Here, we take a look at the spending habits of UK consumers amid the COVID-19 crisis.

spending online amid coronavirus

March 25, 2020

On Monday of this week (23/03/2020), Boris Johnson announced that the British public must stay at home for the next 3 weeks to try and reduce the spread of coronavirus. You are allowed to leave your home if:

  • You need to travel to and from work (only if this is absolutely necessary)
  • You need to go shopping for essential items
  • You need medical care and/or supplies

In addition to the many pubs, clubs and restaurants that have had to close, most shops across the UK have been asked to close too, especially if they do not sell essential goods, such as food and medicine, etc.

A survey conducted by Retail Economics found that nearly half (49%) of the 2,000 consumers that they questioned said they would buy more items online to avoid going out if the virus gets worse.

So, with everyone now having to spend most of their time at home, are people still spending their cash despite a loss of earnings? And what exactly are people spending their money on during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Here, we take a look at the UK’s current spending habits, how they’ve changed and what people indoors are doing with their cash - if anything at all!

Tip: Avoid touching cash

Recently, more and more businesses and shops have only been offering cash-free transactions to customers making purchases, as this will help to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

But while spending cash has been put on hold due to the closure of many UK shops, those who do intend on popping to their local supermarket for essential items should think carefully before buying. Avoid taking cash out to use in-store and simply use the contactless payment to pay for your necessities where possible.

It’s also a good idea to clean any bank cards you’ve used, including your purse and mobile phone, when you return from doing any essential shop.

Panic buying - What are people purchasing now?

American consumer psychologist, Kit Yarrow, states that people are now buying products based on three main needs: to protect, to entertain and to connect.

We’ve all witnessed the annoyance expressed over people who have been stockpiling the likes of toilet rolls, hand sanitiser gels/sprays, antibacterial wipes, tinned goods and pasta, but what else are consumers looking to get their hands on during these difficult times?

As Amazon is currently the one-stop-shop to make necessary purchases online amid the pandemic, we took a look at Amazon’s bestsellers (which are updated hourly) to see what products are currently trending, and it seems that consumers are now spending money on entertainment and devices to keep them connected (and, of course, sane):

  • Books - David Walliams’ Slime, Mrs Hinch’s Little Book of Lists and Pencil & Paper Games are some of the best sellers in Books right now, helping to keep the nation occupied at home.
  • DVDs - Frozen 2, Le Mans ’66 and Downton Abbey are currently the top 3 best-sellers.
  • Toys & Games - Colouring pencils, washable paint and card game Dobble are currently the top 3 activities currently entertaining both kids and adults.
  • Fire TV Sticks with Alexa and batteries are also common purchases.
  • Playstation PSN Wallet top ups, Xbox Live credit and Sony PlayStation controllers are high demand in PC & Video Games.

To see more what other people are currently buying, see their bestsellers here.

According to the BBC, these items have also soared in sales since the coronavirus outbreak:

  • Bicycles and other exercise equipment
  • Indoor and outdoor games
  • Home and garden items
  • Reading material
  • Electrical goods
  • Coffee

The above gives us a little insight into what people are purchasing online to keep themselves occupied, entertained and connected indoors.

Is Amazon still delivering?

With physical trips to the shops on hold, many people are now using Amazon more than ever. Amazon is carrying on fulfilling customers’ orders, but as expected, delivery times are very much likely to be longer.

Amazon said “we’ve changed our logistics, transportation, supply chain, purchasing, and third-party seller processes to prioritise stocking and delivering items that are a higher priority for our customers. This has resulted in some of our delivery promises being longer than usual.”

In the United States, CNBC have reported that apart trending products amid the COVID-19 pandemic now include:

  • Bidets
  • Walter filters and jugs
  • Painter’s tape
  • Puzzles
  • Board game
  • Yeast (as more people are starting to make their own bread at home)
  • Embroidery and knitting sets
  • Yoga mats
  • Condoms

They state that there has been a shift in buying trends, as people have already stocked up on food and medicine for protection, so people have now moved to buying items that will help with their emotional wellbeing and with staying connected to the outside world.

Online gambling industry

It is clear that the online gambling industry has seen a boom in users since the coronavirus crisis, as gambling operator 888 has stated that they’ve seen an increase in online casino activity since the outbreak, with disruption in sports betting has due to cancelled games and live sporting events.

This is slightly worrying, as casino gambling is seen a higher risk compared to other types like sports betting and playing bingo to win money.

However, 888 stated: “With people spending more time at home with potentially increased stress from economic uncertainty, 888’s vigilance on safe gambling and preventing gambling-related harm is even more important than ever.”

If you do have enough spare money to partake in online gambling, please do so sensibly, and be sure to read our latest blog that explains the 2020 rule changes to online gambling.

Is now the time to spend?

Robert Chote, the Head of the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), urges the British publish to increase their spending, in order to continue supporting households and businesses in the UK throughout the crisis - even if the amount of public borrowing soars.

He also stated: "This is not a time to be squeamish about one-off additions to the public debt. It’s more like a wartime situation that this is money well spent”.

And while this may be true, we highly advise that people are cautious when spending their money during these uncertain and difficult financial times.

If you are struggling with money or to pay off debt at the moment, read our related guides below for further information and help, or visit Citizens Advice or Step Change for tailored debt-related advice.

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