How consumer behaviour has changed during COVID — and what that will do to our economy: podcast

Episode 69 of Down to Business podcast

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Reading a magazine article the other day, I was struck by a report that life in many parts of China has essentially returned to normal, or is returning much faster than it is here. There’s been some discussion about how authoritarian or semi-authoritarian governments are better equipped to manage the impacts of COVID-19 basically because they can order you to stay home, or say wear a mask.

This week, on Down to Business, Anindya Sen, an economist at the University of Waterloo, speaks about how consumer behavior has changed during the pandemic. Sen and several colleagues have been studying data released by Google on how consumer traffic across various retail categories from grocery stores to bars and restaurants has changed.

Consumer behavior serves as a proxy for how we interact with government shutdown orders, and Sen found many Canadians actually started staying home long before their provinces issued health guidelines instructing people to social distance. Now, he said, many young people are going back to bars.


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So what’s the takeaway? It means that in Canada, the government needs to consider people’s perception of risk when it crafts shutdown orders because closing bars may just lead some people to move the party into a house.

It’s one of several topics discussed during a conversation about whether a retailapocalypse is coming and what storefronts in cities, and malls in suburbs, may look like in a year or two.

During the last recession, Sen noted the so-called gig economy was born, in which companies like Airbnb and Uber, convinced people to monetize their houses and cars. We also talked about where he sees opportunities as this recession takes hold, rising pressure to raise the minimum wage for frontline workers and whether a guaranteed basic income makes sense.

Listen on Apple Podcasts,?Spotify,?Stitcher?and?Google Play, where you can also subscribe to get new episodes every Wednesday morning.

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