The conventional statement in the past weeks had been “We are not in normal times because of COVID-19”. It looks everyday is a normal day to do business except the pandemic had only come to disrupt economic activities of consumers. Prior to the first recorded case on 12th March 2020, businesses were opened, people are going to work, hotels are bagging in profits, sea and airports were equally busy, bars and restaurants can’t be left out.
There was the routine consumer purchase and nothing in mind of which business is essential and which is not. The “we are not in normal time’s concept” emerged when our case counts increased from 2 to 73. This “abnormal” time regarding businesses led to challenges related to supply chain and consumer demand.
Lifting the lid on the lockdown had seen dramatic low patronage and skeptical behaviors of consumers on goods and services. In a commercial vehicle I sat in from Lapaz to Medina, I observed consumers are gradually becoming afraid to purchase food and assorted drinks from the traffic. Consumers are gradually measuring their purchase in tandem with the exponential growth of COVID-9 cases.
It is obvious there could be sharp dynamics in the physical purchase of goods and service in the coming weeks. This would lead to the focus on making life-saving purchase and on necessities. It would also cause supply disruption on non-essential products but an increase in demand of consumables.
The demands for non-consumables are low after lifting the lockdown. During the lockdown non-essential services which do not operate on isolation where asked to stay home for three weeks. It formed the genesis to low patronage of such services. People may need new clothes, watches and shoes for church, weddings, funerals and other social gatherings yet Schools and Churches have been closed down and other social gatherings have been padlocked living the consumers to shift focus from shoes and clothes to food stuffs and life-saving necessities.
You have to look good in appearance when attending functions but the COVID-19 crisis frowns on social functions and diplomatic gatherings. The purchase of selected item during crisis is important to consumers.
I have interacted with 130 consumers in the Medina, Dansoman, Tema, Koforidua and Kasoa markets and its environs after the lockdown on items they would love to purchase in the pandemic. It was obvious that 90% are on their way to select consumable (edible) items for at most 21 days. Well, 45% percent said it is their usual purchasing activities before COVID-19 and 50% did not want to frequent the market due to the pandemic and had to increase stocks for consumption.
It is also that consumers have changed the way they shop. In the list of 13 people I chanced on, there was nothing on apparel, shoes and bracelets.
These items are not normal in crisis times. More purchase on our staple food stuffs including; rice, maize (corn and cassava dough), gari, noodles, dried fish, frozen chicken, cow meats, Tin Tomatoes, cooking oil, spices, and fruits for deserts. Consumer behavior has not changed on these staple products instead there has been increased in the allocated sum for purchase.
They are stockpiling not because of any second wave of lockdown but to avoid the regular visit to the markets. It is helping consumers to eat less outside. Buying prepared food at restaurants has decreased.
Consumers do not want to put themselves and their families at risk and are avoiding facilities and activities that could endanger their health.
This also means panic purchase has equally reduced due to the lifting of the lockdown.
However, the purchasing behavior of consumers on Personal Protective Equipments (PPE’s) is positive with a high demand without questioning the source. PPE’s become most essential in the fight against the COVID-19. The low demand for sewed clothes is not putting fashion designers out of business but instead redirecting their efforts and innovation. Facial Protective Equipment (FPE) is a must needed one for movement and safety.
Consumers have voluntarily quarantine themselves. They have taken self restrictive measures and are not in town for leisure or visitation to do any impulse buying. There’s a calculated purchase to ease the “partial-self” quarantine. This has led to no corporate travels, annual corporate gatherings and celebration of corporate anniversaries.
Peter Bismark is the CEO at ILAPI