Shutdown 2021: City centres are (again) hit hardest by reduced consumer spending

10. March 2021 (auf Deutsch / en Francais)

For the recent 6-week shutdown (18 January – 28 February), we observe a strong geographic displacement of consumption expenditure: During weeks 3-8 of 2021 the year-on-year drop in point of sale card payments was -32% in city centres compared to  only -6% in other agglomeration areas and -3% in non-agglomeration municipalities.

A closer analysis reveals that the stronger impact of the shutdown in city centres is driven by two effects. First, city centres are more likely to feature shut-down merchants: The share of pre-covid consumer expenditures in non-food retail or restaurants was higher in city centres, while the share of food-retail was higher in other agglomeration areas and non-agglomeration areas. Second, stay-at-home regulations have shifted retail expenditures from city centres to other areas. For example, during the past 6 weeks (week 3-8 2021) the year-on-year increase in point of sale card payments in the category retail: food was +27% in city centres compared to +43% in other agglomeration areas and +47% in non-agglomeration municipalities. *

During the first lockdown period in spring 2020.  our project documented a similar geographic displacement of consumption. During weeks 12-19 of 2020 the year-on-year drop in point of sale card payments was -52% in city centres compared to only -17% in other agglomeration areas and -14% in non-agglomeration municipalities.

Overall, we observe a much weaker reduction in consumer spending in the recent shutdown, compared to the 2020 lockdown. Total payment card transactions (including cash withdrawals) suggest a 18% decline in total spending during the 2021 shutdown compared to the same weeks in 2020. During the 2020 shutdown the decline was almost twice as large compared to the pre-shutdown period. Several reasons may account for the stronger reduction in spending during the first shutdown: initial fear of the pandemic, lack of masks, work from home restrictions were more binding, and more sectors of the economy were closed (e.g. personal services).

*For details of the categorization of municipalities to agglomeration zones see our weekly dashboard:  https://monitoringconsumption.com/acquiring-data-by-agglomeration/