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How the pandemic is changing consumer behaviour in Switzerland

The coronavirus pandemic is turning many people’s lives upside down. This is clearly reflected in consumer behaviour. PostFinance evaluated the payment data of the average Swiss resident over the past two and a half years and obtained some fascinating insights. For example, less is being spent on public transport and foreign travel. But more money is being dedicated to personal well-being, pets – and lotteries.

Consumption on household goods and for day-to-day life is generally easy to predict. Lots of food is purchased in December, while sales of garden tools go up in spring. “This purchasing behaviour changed completely during the weeks of lockdown,” explains Daniel Mewes, Chief Investment Officer at PostFinance. “Certain purchases could no longer be made, while panic buying led to lots more food being bought in some weeks than before Christmas.”

As well as short-term fluctuations, long-term changes to household consumption can also be observed. Since spring 2020, spending on communications has been almost twice as high as before the crisis. Expenditure on pets has also skyrocketed during the coronavirus crisis – and has since remained at a high level. “Increased working from home has led to a rise in demand for recreation and exercise. As a result, lots of households have bought a pet,” adds Daniel Mewes. At the same time, spending on public transport services has fallen dramatically. It has only recovered to some extent since the slump in spring 2020, and has recently declined once again.

Not enough leisure – but lost time made up

Many leisure activities are unavailable or can only be used to a lesser extent during periods of lockdown. So it is no surprise that spending on such services plummeted in spring 2020 and winter 2020/2021. “But the Swiss didn’t miss out on enjoying themselves for long,” explains Mewes. “Firstly, there was a rise in spending on home entertainment. And in summer 2020 and during 2021, the Swiss spent much more than before the crisis on leisure and enjoying themselves outside their homes after the lifting of lockdown measures. This was especially true of spending in restaurants this summer.” People also use lotteries and betting to divert their attention away from the pandemic. Takings at casinos increased sharply, despite their temporary closure.

Greater emphasis on appearance and health

Spending on beauty and wellness plunged due to shop closures during the lockdown weeks. “Despite these restrictions, the Swiss spent more on their health and appearance overall. This points to greater awareness of personal well-being,” Mewes believes. Swiss households dedicated more of their budget to watches and jewellery, for instance.

Travel resumed during leisure time

There are few areas where Swiss households are saving more money during the coronavirus crisis than on foreign travel. Trips are increasingly being taken in Switzerland instead. “The number of overnight hotel stays in Switzerland increased both in summer 2020 and summer 2021,” says Mewes. The amount spent by Swiss households on hotels was actually far higher this summer than before the crisis. Travel restrictions are now making their presence felt once again, however.

Regular study by PostFinance

The payment data evaluated by PostFinance will be used as the basis for the new PostFinance consumption indicator, which is to be published regularly from spring 2022 and will provide information about the latest developments in Swiss consumer spending.