The Changing Consumer Spending

Consumer spending drives the U.S. economy, accounting for roughly 68% of the GDP. The spending includes everything we buy: food, services, entertainment, groceries, haircuts, and more. From the beginning of the year (when the economy was up), the nation has seen rising unemployment, and that means less wages to spend.

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic are changing consumer behavior – what we spend our income on as well as how much we spend. As consumers have weathered the coronavirus pandemic and states have enforced lock-downs for shopping and entertainment, our spending and saving habits have shifted.

Interestingly, personal income rose 10.5% in April, the result of a rise in government rescue programs and household stimulus payments. But consumers also cut their spending on restaurants and hotels, as well as cut health care expenditures. In regards to large purchases, spending on autos declined 30% and furniture and appliance spending cut by 20%.

The first few weeks of the pandemic brought consumers out in mass to stock up on pantry items including toilet paper, soup, macaroni, beans, and other comfort foods. The next few weeks saw consumers buying more basic ingredients as they cooked more meals at home.

What’s next for consumer shopping changes?

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Poll students: In the past month, roughly how much money have they spent? What items have they purchased?
  2. Is this spending different than what they experienced before the coronavirus pandemic? How is it different?
  3. Show video from WSJ about spending: https://www.wsj.com/video/consumer-spending-slid-in-april-here-why-that-matters/14661D9B-8251-43EB-B082-EDDE09187E2F.html
  4. Discuss trends in items being purchased.
  5. How should companies be using these changing habits to their advantage? Should marketing campaigns change?

Source: Wall Street Journal; other news sources

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