Consumer behavior and COVID-19: The change we need

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Residents shop at a market during the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis in Amman. (Photo: AFP)

Before we are drifted away in personal impressions and subjective evaluations, we have to establish that we do need solid scientific studies into consumer behaviors and the impact of COVID-19 on the way we take personal and household decisions of what to buy, how much, and when.اضافة اعلان

In Jordan, we might all agree that optimism is not the word to describe our sentiments as the coronavirus hit hard a country that was already in a quagmire of a severe economic crisis. We might also agree on a few more observations: Firstly, the government did what it could to spare the working class and per diem laborers and their families the sting of the pandemic's repercussions and succeeded in that to a satisfactory degree. Secondly, regardless of what action is expected from authorities to curb the price hikes, citizens need to revisit their consumption habits to adapt to such a difficult situation.

That is why we need credible research into consumer behavior, followed by a policy on how to encourage people to better manage their finances for their own good.

We need, as part of the process, a national campaign led by a multilateral taskforce, where rational voices are heard by the public loud and clear. It should encourage, among other healthy behaviors, collective reactions to unreasonably hiked prices of certain commodities to force a drop.

In a study carried out by McKinsey & Company late last year, involving 45 countries, it was found that in most countries, consumers continued "shifting their spending to essentials, while cutting back on most discretionary categories." Jordan was not included in the survey, but we can safely assume that this has been the case, and we need to make sure that this trend will continue as the country is walking the path of recovery from the ruthless pandemic.

From a psychological perspective, people breaking free from the chains of a pandemic tend to embrace life afresh. It is natural that for those who can afford it; they are inclined to travel and see the world again. They will resume plans to build or expand houses, repaint walls, buy new cars, hold money-draining wedding parties, and so on. If this is coupled with weakening purchasing power, we may have to deal with the serious problem of reckless borrowing, which is the last thing we need under the circumstances.

Maybe in its only upside, COVID has imposed on us certain consumption behaviors, such as skeleton wedding parties, no or limited funeral receptions, the need to focus on what is essential, and forcing us to shed the so-called "culture of shame". We need to keep that forever as part of our lifestyle, because it does not make sense that the family of a dead person has to spend thousands on mansaf and rented tents. We need to accept the post-COVID reality and readjust our lives to it, while keeping the pressure on the government to do whatever it takes to alleviate the burden on us.

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