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What and how did people buy during the Great Lockdown? Evidence from electronic payments

Bruno Carvalho, Susana Peralta and Joao Pereira dos Santos

No 2020-20, Working Papers ECARES from ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles

Abstract: This paper uses novel and comprehensive data on electronic payments from SIBS, the main provider of point of sale terminals and on-line payments in Portugal, to study the impact of the Great Lockdown on purchases. The data aggregates all individual transactions into monthly observations, by municipality and sector, between 2018 and 2020. We employ a difference-in-differences event study that relies on the assumption that the monthly evolution of purchases in the first four months of 2020 would be parallel to that of the two previous years. We identify a massive causal impact on overall purchases, from a baseline year-on-year monthly growth rate of 10% to a decrease of 45%. The sign and magnitude of the impact varies considerably across sectors. Purchases of essential goods such as supermarkets and groceries increase mildly, contrasting with severe contractions in sectors that were closed by government order or depend heavily on tourism, including the leisure industry and restaurants. We find suggestive evidence of initial stockpiling of goods, postponing of essential expenditures, and rapid recovery of purchases in tech and entertainment, possibly to adapt to the confinement. Transactions with foreign-owned cards cause an even greater negative contraction. We disentangle the total effect into the intensive margin of the average transaction and the extensive margin of the number of transactions. Buyers adjust their shopping strategies in rational ways to minimize public health risks: they go less often to supermarkets and buy more each time, and visit local groceries more.

Keywords: Portugal; Covid-19; transaction data; consumer behavior; sectoral impacts (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D12 E21 R10 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-mac and nep-pay
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