How Have Romanian Shopping Habits Changed Post-Covid?

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Back in mid-2020, everyone was talking about the ‘new normal’. The theory was that COVID-19 had changed society permanently, and things would never quite be the same. At the end of 2022, those predictions seem a bit over-the-top. We now walk around without masks on and most people are back working from offices.

However, that doesn’t mean things haven’t changed. Rather, those changes are more subtle and feel more organic. There are certain behaviors we’ve taken on as if things have always been this way.

This is particularly true when it comes to shopping. While there are other reasons that consumer behavior has changed (including inflation), the rise of eCommerce has been huge. Selling online has become more popular than ever before, and the eCommerce market has become an extremely feasible career to pursue. Furthermore, people who would have never shopped online in the past now do it on a regular basis.

But is this just a small bump in eCommerce growth or have Romanian shopping habits really changed post-Covid?

The Rise of Online Shopping

It’s important to look at the extent of the rise of eCommerce in Romania. In 2021, shopping did not simply go back to normal. Rather, eCommerce in Romania saw growth of 43% in 2021, in contrast to the 18% increase worldwide.

ECommerce revenue accounted for almost 6 billion US dollars in 2021. While the largest category for eCommerce purchases is fashion at 46%, food and personal supplies follow at 19%, showing that people are using eCommerce for day-to-day needs as well.

When speaking about the new normal back in 2020, many people expected in-person shopping to be a thing of the past. While we are nowhere near that reality, the balance between in-person and online shopping has certainly shifted.

Online Sellers

When looking at shopping habits, we need to focus on the people selling goods as well. ECommerce has been around for decades by now, but it is easy to forget that many industries were reluctant to make the shift before COVID.

Fast fashion retailers, electronics sellers, and the like were early adopters. However, there were many brick-and-mortar businesses that did not appear ready to follow the trend. This was especially true for grocery stores and other sellers of traditional types of stock.

The effects of the pandemic on store owners were clear early on: either you adapted to the online marketplace or went out of business. Many stores did in fact go out of business. But many others that were expected to fail managed to pick up the pieces and move online.

This was partly because of how easy it has become to make money online. With website builders and a huge cache of information from reliable sources, even the most technophobic store-owners were able to make the shift. Many young Romanians have seen their parents and grandparents do what they’d considered impossible for so long, catching up with a world that had seemingly moved on.

While there are plenty of stores that have gone back to primarily selling from their brick-and-mortar branches, most still have an online presence and do a fair amount of business this way.

Spending Habits

The pandemic certainly had an impact on Romanian spending habits. This was inevitable considering how many people lost their jobs, temporarily or permanently. Money was tight for a long while, but the economy recovered and people started spending at similar rates to how they had before.

It’s impossible to say whether we would have gotten right back to normal in different circumstances, because many events have had a significant impact in the meantime. Inflation started rising across the globe for a number of reasons, leading to people having to be more cautious with their money. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine caused inflation to rise at an even faster rate.

As such, people are buying the bare minimum but are still spending more than before. Frugal habits picked up during the pandemic have become important once again in order for people to make ends meet every month. With a global recession potentially on the way, this is unlikely to change any time soon.

This is part of the problem with trying to assess the impact of the pandemic on consumer behavior. The pandemic happened within a context. It hit hardest in 2020, but other circumstances have served to make 2021 and 2022 almost as eventful. Are we living in a ‘new normal’ or simply coping with all the other things life is throwing at us?

Coming to a neat conclusion is impossible. All that is clear is that the shift to eCommerce has had permanent consequences, even for the most reluctant adopters.

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