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The Pandemic Year: How Brits Spent Their Money in 2020

COVID-19 upended the lives of everyone on Earth. Old habits and routines disappeared almost overnight as work and school got relegated to home, pubs, and restaurants closed, and meeting family and friends were barred.

It is not surprising then that the shopping habits of consumers were also altered in the past year.

Spending Down in the UK

In the United Kingdom, consumers had to say goodbye to some of the nation’s most iconic brands, including the homegrown fast-fashion retailer Topshop. The recession has led to financial insecurity that made consumers more careful about their purchases. The Bank of England reported that, in March 2020, Brits made a total of £13.1 billion.

Analysts estimate that households will save £120.8 billion in 2020, a significant increase from £38.2 billion a year before.

The public has more disposable income now because of the pandemic. But, although many reduced their spendings on certain products and services, they spent more on other things.

Here are the things that British consumers purchased in the past year.

Sprucing Up the Home

The past year has forced the population to spend more time at home. Most adults were asked to work from the comforts of their living or dining rooms. Meeting people outside of the household was highly discouraged to prevent the spread of the highly contagious and deadly virus. Holidays were canceled as borders between nations were shut down.

As a result, many found time and energy to fuss around their homes.

When the restrictions were eased, shoppers spent money on home improvement projects. The Office for National Statistics reported that, by August, sales of household goods were up by almost 10 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

In total, homeowners across the UK spent £55 billion on renovations or an average of about £4,035.75 per property since the first lockdown in early 2020. About two-thirds of all homeowners invested in improving their properties in the past year.

Because of the dangers of COVID-19, homeowners are choosing to make repairs and replacements on their own if they can. They are more likely to buy sealants that are typically used in construction to patch gaps and holes around window panes and door frames, the attic, walls, and other areas around the house.

modern kitchen

Consumers also bought new household appliances such as vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, electric kettles, and air fryers.

However, the industry that gained the most is gardening. People looked for an excuse to stay outdoors, while social distancing and sheltering at home. Many took advantage of their lawns and backyards.

Interest in gardening also increased in the past year. The popularity of the pastoral lifestyle (dubbed “cottage-core” by young generations on the internet), as well as the desire to eat fresh and healthy foods, led people to get their hands dirty and plant a garden.

Plants were among the top-selling items in the past year in the UK.

Necessities for Staying In

While fashion items were not selling, other pieces of clothing were flying off the shelves. In the past year, two of the most frequently purchased items in the UK were loungewear and nightwear.

Similar trends were observed around the world. Because there was nowhere else to go, people are dressing up less often. There was, therefore, no need to impress. Instead, consumers chose to feel comfortable, not stylish, every single day.

In addition, Brits also spent their disposable income on entertainment. One-fifth of all Brits admitted that they are paying more on streaming services because of the pandemic. They do not have access to live concerts nor can they go to movie theatres. They are getting the majority of their entertainment from Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, HBO Max, Apple TV, and Disney+.

Other Expenses

Unsurprisingly, most households spent money on food and drinks. The most frequently made purchases during the pandemic were takeaway food and drinks. Meanwhile, baking ingredients also were in high demand as people try their hands on making their own meals at home.

The population also bought alcoholic drinks despite the absence of parties. Many people used drinking to cope with the seemingly endless stream of bad news coming out of the television and social media feeds over the past year.

One survey found that almost half of the population were drinking more because of COVID-19.

The spending habits of the public were interesting to look at because they reflected how people spent the past year as the UK entered multiple lockdowns to slow the spread of COVID-19. The restrictions are slowly but steadily being lifted. The shopping habits of consumers will likely see another shift.

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