Consumers' Mobility, Expenditure and Online-Offline Substitution Response to Covid19: Evidence from French Transaction Data

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This paper investigates a number of general phenomena connected with consumer behaviour in response to a severe economic shock, using billions of French card transactions measured before and during the Covid-19 epidemic.
By David Bounie, Télécom Paris – Youssouf Camara, Télécom Paris – John W. Galbraith, McGill University, Montreal

This study answers the following questions:

  • How is consumer mobility affected by containment?
  • How is consumer spending affected during the day, day after day, during the week?
  • Does the impact of the crisis on consumer spending differ between Paris and other cities in France, and what is the extent of the decline in consumer spending between core and non-core sectors?
  • How does e-commerce allow essential or non-essential activities to compensate for the drop in sales in physical stores?

Answers in figures :

  • Cardholders spent more in their own city during the containment period (64% in 2020 vs. 13% in 2019)
  • There was a significant drop in the value (-54%) and volume (-61%) of transactions, while the average transaction volume increased significantly (+19%).
  • In-store purchases fell by 60% in value while online purchases fell by only 30%.
  • Some sectors, based for example on home delivery, have seen their purchase volumes increase.

We examine changes in consumer mobility, anticipatory behaviour in response to announced restrictions, and the contrasts between the responses of online and traditional point-of-sale (off-line) consumption expenditures to the shock. We track hourly, daily and weekly responses as well as estimating an aggregate fixed-period impact effect via a difference-in-difference estimator. The results, particularly at the sectoral level, suggest that {recourse} to the online shopping option diminished somewhat the overall impact of the shock on consumption expenditure, thereby increasing resiliency of the economy.

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