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Six lasting consumer legacies three years on from lockdown

Today marks three years since the start of the UK’s first lockdown. So, which consumer trends adopted during the pandemic have stood the test of time and which have been left behind, as the increasing cost-of-living also continues to impact discretionary spending.

According to Barclays’ there are three top lockdown legacies that continue to impact our lives and how people shop.

Covid careers three years on

The pandemic powered a boom in UK entrepreneurship and inspired many Brits to start new side-hustles and small businesses – especially furloughed employees who found themselves with extra time on their hands. Barclays’ data shows that almost one in three Brits (28%) has started a new small business or found a way to supplement their income since the first national lockdown three years ago.

The majority who started a new venture (86%) are still running their small businesses or side-hustle, with over a third (34%) saying it has become their main source of income. Popular start-ups and money-making initiatives started by these commercially-minded Brits include cleaning businesses, online tutoring, translation services, baking, cat-sitting, jewellery making and online fitness classes. 

In-trend insperiences 

During the pandemic, long supermarket queues and a shortage of grocery delivery slots led to a surge in demand for meal-box subscription services, and three years on many Brits have become even more reliant on their ease and convenience – along with still liking an ‘insperience‘. Almost half (46%) of those who signed-up to pre-prepared meal-kits and 35% who started using make-your-own meal-kit subscriptions in the lockdowns now spend more on these services each month than they did during that period.

Lockdowns also led to a rise in demand for digital entertainment, services and experiences. As Brits spent more time at home watching boxsets, digital content saw rapid growth at the start of the pandemic – by April 2020, spending was up 40.5% compared to February 2020, the last full month before the first lockdown. Even as restrictions eased after March 2021, digital content and subscription growth has averaged 41% throughout the post-lockdown period versus February 2020.

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Pandemic pastimes 

Six in 10 (62%) Brits seized the opportunity to learn a new hobby or skill when many leisure and entertainment ventures were closed, and millions have kept up their pandemic pastimes. Gardening (20%), exercising (19%) and baking (16%) are reported as the most popular pursuits Brits have continued to enjoy since life returned to normal.

In particular, online training has continued to prove a popular way to stay in shape, with some fitness fans now using free online exercise videos to save money (13%) instead of paying for classes. A similar number also say they now prefer to exercise at home or outdoors rather than visiting a gym (12%) after adopting a new routine during the pandemic.

Top 3 ‘lockdown leave behinds’

Meanwhile, there are also a number of habits that changed during the pandemic that have fallen by the wayside. The three lockdown leave behinds are: 

Price overshadows support for shopping locally – UK shoppers shopped closer to home and became more community-spirited during the height of pandemic, leading to significant growth at local food and drink specialist stores – such as butchers, bakeries and independent and convenience shops. Across the whole of 2020, spend in this category was up 28.6% compared to 2019.

However, now that almost seven in 10 (68%) shoppers say they are looking for ways to reduce the cost of their weekly shop amid the cost-of-living crunch, Brits are increasingly prioritising lower prices over their desire to shop locally. Three in 10 (30%) of these shoppers are buying from larger supermarkets because prices tend to be lower than in smaller, independent shops, and nearly a quarter (23%) has shifted their spending because larger stores tend to have more options when it comes to budget and value ranges.

Despite these inflationary pressures, however, millions of Brits have remained loyal to local businesses. A quarter (25%) say lockdowns made them realise how much they value their local high-street, so still try to support it where possible and 23% now try to spend locally rather than shopping online.

Avoiding takeaway temptation– More than half (52%) of consumers who ordered takeaways during the lockdowns say they now spend less on takeout food than they did during that period, with 25% reporting they now spend significantly less. 

Meanwhile, the proportion of grocery spending online compared to in-store has risen compared to pre-lockdown levels. Before the UK’s first lockdown in March 2020, only 10.0% of grocery shopping was conducted online – this rose to 16.0% during the lockdowns and until the restrictions were eased in March 2021, and has now settled at 13.4% (February 2023 data). This indicates that – of the millions of Brits who switched to buying groceries online during the lockdowns – many more have made the change permanently, compared to those who have now returned to their preferred way to buy their weekly shop.

Dwindling deliveries– The number of home deliveries has fallen by an estimated 22% compared to during the pandemic – Brits report that they received an average of 5.0 deliveries per month during this period, compared to only 3.9 per month now. In addition, 22% of shoppers say they currently receive no online deliveries at all, compared to only 16% during the pandemic.

Another ecommerce trend that has fallen in popularity since lockdown restrictions lifted is Click & Collect. Of the 53% of Brits who have used Click & Collect, one in three (31%) now use it less regularly than they did during the lockdowns, compared to just one in five (19%) who has increased the number of orders they choose to pick up in-store.

Marc Pettican, Head of Barclaycard Payments, comments: “From ‘insperiences’ to online fitness, the pandemic shaped and accelerated several notable shifts in consumer behaviour.

“However, the cost-of-living crunch is slowly unpicking some of these trends as Brits have had to become more selective about how and where they shop. For example, the boom in takeaways has tapered off, as has spending at local independent stores, as consumers continue to look for ways to cut costs to help make ends meet.

“What is positive though is that the entrepreneurial spirit we saw during the pandemic still lives on, with over a third of those who started a small business or side-hustle in the past three years even managing to turn it into their main source of income.”

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