New lockdown spending habits will outlive the coronavirus pandemic

Spending habits forged during the coronavirus lockdown are set to permanently reshape consumer behaviour in Australia.

There has been a surge in demand for household services such as home delivery and subscription television since the onset of the pandemic, according to a real-time spending tracker developed by analytics firm AlphaBeta, which is part of Accenture, and the credit bureau illion.

Food delivery cyclists working during the coronavirus lockdown in Sydney. CREDIT:JAMES BRICKWOOD

Food delivery has led the way, with spending 192 per cent higher last week than the pre-pandemic norm.

AlphaBeta director Dr Andrew Charlton, who was economic adviser to prime minister Kevin Rudd, said new modes of spending adopted by households during the lockdown would endure.

“There are a lot of consumer trends that this crisis has really accelerated,” Dr Charlton said.

“In some ways Australia has been a bit of a laggard in online shopping, but this crisis has forced many people to get a login, open an account and work out how things work. And I don’t think they’ll ever go back.”

Spending on subscription television was 11 per cent higher than normal last week, while the purchase of streamed music, video games and apps was 53 per cent above normal in the week of April 6-13.

“People are getting used to doing things differently and some of the changes will be persistent,” Dr Charlton said.

Consumers have been spending much more on their homes during the lockdown.

The real-time spending tracker reveals purchases of furniture and office equipment were 57 per cent higher than normal last week, while home improvement spending was up 38 per cent.

Pets also appear to be benefiting – pet care spending was 14 per cent higher than normal last week and has been consistently strong during the past month.

The real-time spending information, which draws on a database tracking the consumption patterns of hundreds of thousands of Australians, shows spending on online gambling was 71 per cent higher than normal last week, while alcohol purchases were up by 35 per cent.

But the rush of coronavirus-induced buying at supermarkets last month appears to be over – purchases in supermarkets were back to the pre-pandemic norm last week.

The spending tracker has revealed a massive fall in spending on road tolls, which were 52 per cent below normal last week. Spending on taxis and rideshare services are also sharply lower.

Cafes have been hit hard by pandemic restrictions but have managed to maintain some turnover with takeaway sales – spending was 51 per cent lower than normal last week.

Overall, spending across the economy was 14 per cent lower than normal in the week of April 13-20, a small improvement on the previous week when overall spending was down 18 per cent.

A one-off government payment of $750 made to about 6.5 million pensioners and social security recipients during the first two weeks of April continued to underpin spending on essentials, which was 5 per cent below the pre-pandemic norm.

“Over the last few weeks we can see how stimulus payments have been working effectively, with an increase in spending by lower-income households who received the stimulus,” Dr Charlton said.

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