By Pradeep B Salgaonkar and Seema P Salgaonkar
The world is hit terribly by COVID-19 and people globally are fighting the virus since early 2020. The lockdowns while slowing down the spread of the infection also slowed down the economic activity drastically. It forced people to change their lifestyle, behaviour and consumption patterns in different ways.
In normal circumstances consumers exhibit a selective and controlled buying behaviour as the choice is with them. They decide when to buy, what to buy, how much to buy, from whom to buy etc. However in extraordinary circumstances such as pandemic breakouts, followed by lock downs of the entire nation, the circumstances are non-normal and the consumer behaviour changes significantly.
The changes in market place in wake of COVID-19 lockdown prompted a survey. It was to find out, whether people experienced shortages in goods, whether there was tendency to overstock, whether consumers paid premium prices for goods, whether the purchase decisions were impacted by opinions and behaviour and whether people consumed differently.
The research was undertaken primarily in Goa with a sample size of 632 respondents. The survey revealed that, Goans had to face a lot of hardships for obtaining essential goods during the initial days of the lockdown. There was fear and anxiety among the residents and shopkeepers alike. There were shortages, price hikes, empty shelves and overstocking.
The results showed that 63 per cent of the respondents faced shortages when they went out for shopping. Many had to return empty handed, move from store to store to get the requirements, and grab whatever they could get.
Whopping 81 per cent of the surveyed had to wait in queue before their number came for shopping. Likewise, a large number 74 per cent said that shopping was very time consuming. Long serpentine queues were observed in the initial days of lockdown and people waited for hours together sometimes only to witness empty shelves. It resulted in picking up whatever that was available and moving from one store to another store to get all goods they wanted.
A big number 73 per cent had to go to more than one stores in order to buy everything on the shopping list.
Sizeable 65 per cent did stock up products which otherwise they wouldn’t have stocked up. And 56 per cent of the respondents spent more money in purchasing more items than otherwise they would spend. This clearly indicates panic buying for over stocking at home
The market forces did have their role to play in influencing the consumption behaviour of people at large. The people were, to some extent, influenced by social media and by the opinions, behaviour and actions of others around.
Marketers and shopkeepers took advantage of the situation to make that extra buck by selling essential goods at a premium price. Sizeable 56 per cent of the surveyed paid higher than usual prices for essential
Overall people became more conscious about their health and wellness. They started consuming healthy food, started focusing on their health and wellness and took more sleep. The survey showed that a whopping 75 per cent respondents said that their focus on health and wellness increased.
Peoples’ online content consumption surged many fold. According to the survey 72 per cent respondents agreed that on an average their consumption of social media, TV/entertainment, and online content increased. Only about 15 per cent said it did not increase.
Consumption of groceries, vegetables, sanitizers, soaps, hand wash and masks, biscuits and internet usage increased. Whereas on the flip side consumption decreased in respect to cold drinks and beverages, fast foods, non vegetarian food, clothes and accessories, ice creams.
People also opined that they started using a few products like sanitizers, masks, ginger, frozen foods, noodles and online fitness videos, which otherwise they did not consume. They felt that these categories of products may become a part of their lifestyle for the near future.
The overall observation is that people behaved differently in non-normal times like those of COVID-19, they acted differently and consumed differently, than they would have behaved and consumed in normal times. There was fear, anxiety, uncertainty and confusion prevailing all over, which was different from the normal times where there is order, certainty and things are better controlled. The demand for certain categories of products surged, while that for certain categories just slumped. In general, majority people faced shortages of goods, difficulties and hard times.
The writers are founders of Saldots Academy, Porvorim. Pradeep Salgaonkar is also the immediate past chairman, Goa Management Association