Open Journal of Business and Management, 2021, 9, 2425-2451
ISSN Online: 2329-3292
ISSN Print: 2329-3284
10.4236/ojbm.2021.95131 Sep. 18, 2021 2425
Open Journal of Business and Management
COVID-19 Induced Changes in Consumer
Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK
Using literature survey and analysis, this study assessed consumption beha-
vior changes induced by the COVID-19 pandemic and the possibility of re-
taining them after the pandemic. Financial
uncertainty and loss of welfare
sources triggered saving behaviors. Some
people binged on media products
mitigating and therapeutic benefits. While such behaviors
could decrease once the virus is eliminated and its stressors disappear, som
routines could continue. Certain val
ues affecting the nature and frequency of
consumption could also change, thus increasing the speed of individual cus-
tomers’ habit formation. To make accurate long-
term strategic decisions
without suffering losses, the restaurant sector and other businesses must ad-
just to new operational conditions by analyzing changing revenues and possi-
ble lasting effects of changing consumer behavior.
Consumer Behavior Changes, COVID-19, Economic Changes,
Since the outbreak of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic early
last year, it has affected every possible aspect of life. Its pernicious impact did not
spare even consumption, whose determinants were affected, including people’s
health and financial well-being, which have suffered paradoxically, despite pan-
demic containment efforts. In the study by Cariappa et al. (2020) on an Indian
sample, 59.53% of the respondents pointed to the lockdown having impacted
them, varying from mild to severe in most cases. While 3.3% described them-
selves as having been severely affected, an estimated 10% reported moderate to
severe impact. This impact was predictable, given that the economy underper-
How to cite this paper:
Gerlich, M. (2021).
-19 Induced Changes in Consum-
Open Journal of Business and
July 25, 2021
September 15, 2021
September 18, 2021
Copyright © 20
21 by author(s) and
Research Publishing Inc.
This work is licensed under the Creative
Commons Attribution International
License (CC BY
10.4236/ojbm.2021.95131 2426 Open Journal of Business and
formed owing to the lockdown, as shown by Verschuur et al. (2021) study,
whose application of empirical vessel-tracking data found that the international
maritime trade suffered losses between 7% and 9.6% in the first eight months of
2020 alone, equivalent to $225 - 412 billion in value losses. Since consumption
was a variable linked to people’s incomes that were affected, it did not remain
static, but fluctuated. Cariappa et al. (2020) reported that 92.01% acknowledged
a recognizable change in their shopping behaviors. An estimated 90% of res-
pondents associated this change with infection risks and the strict lockdown.
When it comes to actual changes, Kumar and Abdin’s (2021) India-based study
predicted the persistence of the essentials-only consumption pattern that emerged
following the spell of panic-buying, corroborated by the majority of respondents’
inputs. These comprise just a few of the several studies that show the pandemic’s
impactful nature and confirm that there has been a change in consumer beha-
vior. The change occurs based on mechanisms, such as classical and operant
conditioning, as well as the social learning and risk perception theories, which
can determine the permanence of people’s behavioral shifts, in terms of their
consumption in the wake of the pandemic.
Hence, this study’s major goal is to identify whether consumer changes are
induced by the pandemic and measures necessitated by it, such as lockdowns, or
whether the complexion of the consumer market is changing in terms of prefe-
rences and buying enthusiasm or intensity.
The following part of the article will introduce the research questions and re-
2. Research Questions and Research Approach
Based on a wide set of findings, the following issues were derived and examined:
1) whether saving behavior is a temporary phenomenon made relevant by the
2) whether COVID-19 has had a reverse impact by boosting consumption be-
3) whether such behaviors are here to stay;
4) the trend of excessive media consumption and panic-buying, including
their persistence against all odds;
5) the shift to home cooking and the prospects of the pre-pandemic business
pace being resumed in the restaurant sector;
6) the changes of values—an essential issue—in the face of an existential crisis
that can end the era of consumerism;
7) the chances of new consumption habits being retained.
This study used the literature survey method that involved searching for lite-
rature deemed relevant, assessing their sources, identifying key debates and
themes, transferring the information selected, and its thematic synthesis. The
method of analysis made it possible to draw inferences from the secondary lite-
rature compiled. This study is mainly based on secondary research in the form
Open Journal of Business and Management
of a literature review and published statistics. Its findings have turned out to be
contrary to the major limitations encountered in the course of this study, in-
cluding the relative deficit of quality sources. A literature review can broadly be
described as a more or less systematic way of collecting and synthesizing pre-
vious research (Baumeister & Leary, 1997; Tranfield et al., 2003). An integrative
review approach (Torraco, 2005) has been used for the purpose of combining
3.1. Saving Behavior—A New Behavioral Mainstay?
When a crisis having adverse financial implications presents itself, many people
tend to adopt saving behaviors. Jin et al. (2021) pointed out that based on an in-
spection of individuals’ psychology, it was possible to assert that consumers
generally put their enhanced savings on display in the course of a pandemic due
to perceived risks, while their spending was inversely proportional to their vo-
lume of savings/willingness. However, the study by Jin et al. (2021) did not link
people’s saving behaviors to their staying at home, thus reducing the relevance of
individual acquisitions, including in the fashion category. It was unlike Daven-
port et al. (2020), who attributed it to lockdown-induced forced saving, whereas
Christelis et al. (2020) applied the concept of precautionary savings. Sometimes,
researchers tend to point to saving by using consumption and spending. Coffey
et al. (2020), for example, talked about a decrease in consumption associated
with social distancing and business closedowns, while Baker and Yannelis
(2017), Baker (2018), Gelman et al. (2020), and Garmaise et al. (2020) shared an
understanding that consumers respond to adverse shocks through a decrease in
spending owing to the onset of falling expectations concerning future income
prospects, financial constraints, and enhanced uncertainties (cited in Chrono-
poulos et al., 2020: p. 6).
Likewise, Jin et al. (2021) did not provide any accurate prediction of how the
spending situation would unfold in the period following the suppression of the
virus. This fact indicates that studies centered on the long-term impact of the
COVID-19 severity are yet to focus on the spending and saving behavior of
people following the culmination of the global pandemic. This observation
seems valid, as there are plenty of media reports in circulation. Hannon’s (2021)
article in the Wall Street Journal stated that consumption revival could accele-
rate the economy but refrained from making specific predictions. However, Jim
Glassman (2021), JP Morgan’s Managing Director and Head Economist,
sounded more certain that many consumers were well-placed to step up spend-
ing once the pandemic dies down. This prediction makes sense, as Slovic et al.
(2004) regarded the perception of risks as a situational psychological variable
(cited in Jin et al., 2021). Consequently, if the situation changed, the perception
of risks by an individual would also change (Jin et al., 2021). Slovic (2000) cited
the risk perception theory, which can lend validity to this prediction. Based
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thereon, the closer a disaster is, the higher will be the perception of risks (cited
in Jin et al., 2021). Arias et al. (2017) also defined the proximity of threats as a
factor that influences the perception of risks among people exposed to potential
threats. The same can be said of Kinateder et al. (2015), who correlated the ex-
tent of proximity with that of intentions and preparedness, which virtually im-
plies risk perception, as people would not prepare themselves if they did not
sense the proximity of danger. Based on this theory, Jin et al. (2021) predicted
that the easing of COVID-19 will eliminate individuals’ risk perceptions, as well
as its impact on consumer spending and saving behaviors. Hence, it was con-
cluded that the impact of the pandemic’s severity on consumer spending and
saving behaviors would be short-term, without transcending the chronological
confines of the pandemic (Jin et al., 2021). Still, one can disagree regarding the
probability of such behavior changes once the virus has been eradicated.
The problem is that COVID eradication is not a spatially homogeneous and
simultaneous process or achievement, that gets rid of the virus with one wave of
a magic wand. No such outcome can be expected as some countries will fare
worse, given the low rate of vaccinations, whether it is due to logistic, corrup-
tion, or other factors. Even states scoring high on vaccinations may have some
pockets of infection left to battle, as a large number of people refuse to get vac-
cinated and even fully vaccinated citizens still can get infected and can transmit
the virus. In any case, just as the governments were unable to block the penetra-
tion of the virus in early 2020, the pandemic will continue at least temporarily, as
economic globalization and the circulation of goods will persist, if not grow in
intensity, being driven by economic losses and labor force decimation by the vi-
rus. Given that, media and healthcare ministries are mostly transparent, unless
in authoritarian states, people will know if the infection is still persisting in some
pockets. If so, they may not have fears, which leads them to abandon their re-
duced spending and enhanced saving behaviors.
There are further arguments to challenge the view of behavioral rollbacks and
the resumption of usual spending patterns. Another problem is that COVID-19
has ravaged many economies worldwide. Gorbiano (2020) offered very telling
evidence of its impact, referring to Sri Mulyani, the Minister of Finance of the
Indonesian Republic, who predicted that the pandemic would lead to the ranks
of the poor being replenished by 1.1 to 3.78 million people, while 2.9 to 5.2 mil-
lion were expected to enter the category of the unemployed. The first figures in
the datasets represent the blue-sky scenario of minimal projected adverse out-
comes (cited in Supriatna, 2020). Studies offering similar figures are aplenty, as
are those detailing losses sustained by different industries around the world, in-
cluding that by Ozili and Arun (2020) who pointed to $820 billion in losses faced
by the business travel industry, which is a prediction made as early as the begin-
ning of the outbreak. General figures, too, rationalize the unemployment and
poverty trends that seem bound to continue, and are none the more optimistic,
given that, Credit Suisse (2020) showed that the debt ratio as a percentage of
Open Journal of Business and Management
GDP had climbed to around 28% in Spain, relative to about 14% observed in
People do not reside in an information vacuum; they will be aware of how the
economic situation unfolds, given the high odds of poor development and their
welfare being directly dependent on economic health. Hence, they will not
struggle to understand that the economies around the world will have no way of
absorbing the large labor force once the pandemic is over, and their economies
are gradually getting back on track. Even if employed, people may not rest easy
about their financial security, as the labor surplus can feed the temptation of
employers to lower pay rates in the knowledge that galloping unemployment will
force talents on the payroll into accepting smaller paychecks if only to cling on
to their positions. There being no governmental intervention, this abuse can ac-
tually take place, leaving people fearing about their being fired. The long-term
impact of COVID-19 that can make its presence felt with time, gives employers
reasons to terminate their employees, despite their having recovered from the
crisis. Its long-term health impact that can interfere with people’s ability to re-
tain their jobs has already been well-documented. Del Rio et al. (2020) described
clinicians as observing and reading reports of patients with acute symptoms and
even considerable end-organ dysfunction, following the SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Among the organs affected were the brain, lungs, and heart, which are ascribed
to direct tissue invasion by the virus.
3.2. The Buying Spree—Why the Pandemic Can Become a Boon
for Some Producers/Retailers?
Conversely, producers and businesses can gain from the pandemic in terms of
consumption. According to Jin et al. (2021), the pandemic can enhance individ-
uals’ risk perception and stimulate saving versus spending behaviors. It is be-
lieved that due to a desire to ease their anxiety, many individuals would consume
before they save. This consumption behavior correlates well with the existing
academic literature. Hill et al. (1997) argued that people understand life to be fi-
nite in the face of a death threat, which prompts consumption, and a decrease in
savings (cited in Jin et al., 2021). According to Hill et al. (1997), the propensity
toward spending/saving behavior depends on materialism—the value orienta-
tion of individuals demonstrating the degree to which they perceive the purchase
of material ownership as an indication of accomplished life objectives (cited in
Jin et al., 2021). Belk (1985), Richins and Dawson (1992), and Chan and Pren-
dergast (2007) further explained that materialistic persons seek to secure happi-
ness and success by focusing on, and pursuing material wealth and property ac-
quisition (cited in Jin et al., 2021). Unsurprisingly, Ger and Belk (1996) ac-
knowledged that such highly materialistic individuals always tried to own more
things than others, even when perceiving the pandemic’s risks.
Another possible attention-worthy explanation is the therapeutic property of
shopping, that Atalay & Meloy (2011) referred to as the retail therapy, in which,
10.4236/ojbm.2021.95131 2430 Open Journal of Business and
individuals attempt to cheer themselves via the acquisition of self-treats. Nega-
tive moods serve as a driving force of the consumption behavior that results in a
greater rate of buying and the acquisition of unplanned treats. Mood improve-
ments, without the feelings of guilt and regret, which follow such unplanned
buying sprees, is a lasting positive effect of this therapy aimed at mood adjust-
ments (Atalay & Meloy, 2011). The pandemic brings many restrictions to life, at
the very least, to say nothing of its lethality and the consequent traumatizing
impact. Since people have mood swings, buying becomes a rational therapeutic
means and a response to mood declines. Gitimu and Waithaka (2019), who
concurred that retail therapy could improve bad moods, pointed to its ability to
fill life with value. It does so by enabling engagement in meaningful behaviors
(Gitimu & Waithaka, 2019). Yet, it may be short-lived, in that, it gives meaning
only during the activity’s time span. Moreover, this therapy can have even great-
er utility, and Lee (2015) generalizes its application range by claiming that it re-
pairs negative feelings, thereby implying their multitude.
Now, it would be rational to respond to the findings retrieved. When it comes
to the viability of the behavior, therapeutic buying seems driven by external
stressors associated with the pandemic. While its elimination can remove the
stressors, which will make the buying behavior no longer necessary, what lies
ahead is not as simple. The impact of the pandemic has ripped apart national
economies, causing great havoc. Waitzkin (2020) confirmed its destructive im-
pact, using the concept of capitalism collapse, and so did Barlow et al. (2021) by
pointing to the global trade collapse, which will shatter financial security and re-
tain uncertainty. Similarly, the Financial Stability Board (2020) is among the
multiple sources confirming economic uncertainty induced by the pandemic.
Hence, the therapeutic utility of buying will stand, albeit to a lesser degree, as
pandemic dissipation will remove a portion of stressors, while the remaining
ones will be on the ebb due to gradual recovery. Although relevant, the very
presence of external stressors associated with financial instability will arguably
cripple/limit the ability of people to pursue such buying behaviors.
Additionally, economic winners of the pandemic were online shopping plat-
forms like Amazon (which increased its sale by up to 200% (Dastin & Rana,
2021) and supermarket chains (Mattinson, 2021).
3.3. Binge-Watching and Panic-Buying as Juncture-Induced
Behavioral Trends or the New Reality?
While on a consumption spree, people can hoard or otherwise access large
amounts of media and literature of a certain genre that can offer a coping poten-
tial. According to Lucken (2021), at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic was
raging, strong binge-watching gained the status of an acceptable pastime. The
time spent in this fashion ceased being regarded as time that was wasted (Luck-
en, 2021). Perhaps, for people who have temporarily shed the stigma of
time-wasting (which usually comes with excessive watching), the collateral feel-
Open Journal of Business and Management
ing of shame feeds the enhanced consumption trend. Hence, the pandemic gave
this consumption intensity an air of legitimacy, apart from incentivizing its
choice, as a way to fill the free time vacuum when some employers were forced
into coming to a standstill. The volume of reading was not the only activity to
have changed since the pandemic’s outbreak, given that, the complexion of the
consumption market too, had changed. After the COVID-19 outbreak that came
to be classified as a global pandemic, there has been a shift in consumer prefe-
rences in the category of books. Although not necessarily seismic, this trend is
An overview of the literature consumption trends by Gamerman (2020)
showed an increase in the demand for books on pandemics. Thus, for example,
based on the data from NPD BookScan, the first two months of 2020 saw the
trade paperback sales of Stephen King’s “The Stand” rising by 25% despite its
having been first printed as far back as 1978, while sales of the hardcover of the
novel—centered on a weaponized fly decimating nearly all the humans and ani-
mals around the world—increased threefold during the comparable period.
Many readers were making efforts to compare the book with the present-day vi-
rus, so much so that the author himself saw it fit to take to Twitter, with an eye
to getting the idea refuted. When it comes to other books on pandemics, the
sales of “Station Eleven” by Emily St. John Mandel soared by 50%, while “World
War Z” experienced a lesser, albeit significant growth of 33%, which occurred in
the first two months of 2020. Overall, print sales of adult nonfiction on conta-
gious illnesses rose by 52% (Gamerman, 2020).
Another creative product, albeit in the cinematic domain, has soared in popu-
larity after the onset of the pandemic, although it was produced earlier. As re-
ported by Sperling (2020), the movie “Contagion” from 2011 was listed as #270
in the catalog of Warner Brothers, but from the end of December 2019 to the
beginning of 2020, it made its way to #2. That the film ranked second, with only
the Harry Potter film ahead of it, means that no other apocalyptic films could
beat it, while some likely films could not so much as come close to stirring up as
much interest. McGuire (2021) offered a causal insight into this trend, which can
shed light on why there is variability in the popularity of the genre, whose de-
mand seems to be peaking. Apparently, the movie was an instant hit even on its
release date, grossing $8 million when out in theaters and dominating the week-
end. To decipher its success, the study draws parallels with other films of the
same genre only to find a popularity clue in the way the film ended, as compared
with other alternatives in this genre. The disease did not lose its intensity merci-
lessly with the change of seasons, as compared with early plague narratives. In-
stead, a happy ending was achieved by designing a vaccine (McGuire, 2021).
In all likelihood, the film gained popularity, or at least maintained its mo-
mentum, when it became obvious that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a season-
al epidemiological phenomenon, and that it will not die down until conquered
via vaccination (this presumption is somewhat speculative as there is no tracker
10.4236/ojbm.2021.95131 2432 Open Journal of Business and
of film popularity). It could be that its proximity to the “Contagion” storyline
involving the vaccination-assisted end of the disease (which became manifest as
COVID-19 raged on), that can have made the movie more popular than others.
The relevance of virus-centered apocalyptic movies was lost to observations
made by people on COVID-19 not being seasonal in nature. Moreover, the film
can invite further parallels, including its etiology or origin-based similarity,
along with symptomatic commonness, its import from China (Hong Kong), qu-
arantines, and panic-buying, to name but a few. In retrospect, since to some ex-
tent, the film looks like a simulation of what is to happen in the future, its real-
ism, on which, many other apocalyptic movies lost, is what was likely to have
made it the most popular in its genre, at least, at the time of writing. Apart from
the film serving as a behavioral manual in its own right by showing how to be-
have during a pandemic, it could have been soothing to its audience by portray-
ing that a near-similar virus could be conquered, and that the vaccine which the
people are presently awaiting would also work. Thus understood, the film’s
fear-reducing leverage allows people to cope with panic unassisted, that is,
without human psychologists being involved.
It is not that the genre was not popular before the virus; it is just that it gained
significant momentum. Now, it remains to be understood what it was that got
people to increasingly switch to the apocalyptic genre by choice. One of the ma-
jor things that COVID-19 has done is changing people’s lives, at least in the fo-
reseeable future. Being lethal and highly contagious, the pandemic has made it
necessary for people to change their lifestyles in a way that left them lacking
access to their favorite entertainment and pastime options, which could not but
result in frustration and anger buildup. While overwhelmed by such emotions,
the body is likely to face the need to shed the adverse emotions, and aggression
venting could be the way, to do that which is within reach; still, it seems coun-
terproductive based on what researchers have had to say in this regard. While
Kirsh (2019) has acknowledged the widely held conviction of acting out, rumi-
nating, and venting being instrumental in the release of aggressive sentiments
and pent-up anger, no backing for such beliefs can be identified in empirical da-
ta. Far from supporting the catharsis effect of this way of coping with negative
emotions, scholars often suggest otherwise. Put differently, rather than decreas-
ing aggression, the release of pent-up energy by yelling or hitting objects does
little, other than enhancing aggressive sentiments and thoughts. Thus, an alter-
native to counterproductive anger wreaking emerges, as some people reportedly
entertain and share an understanding that cathartic behaviors are beneficial, and
hence, are in search of violent media, including zombie apocalypse tales (Kirsh,
2019). This interpretation falls in line with the stance of other researchers, in-
cluding Bushman (2002), who agreed that media violence offered an outlet for
aggressive drives based on the catharsis model (cited in Ferguson, 2010), as well
as Mack and Ott (2010) and Helfgott (2018), who regarded violent media ca-
tharsis as that which enabled engagement in fantasy aggression by viewers, re-
Open Journal of Business and Management
moving the relevance of adopting aggressive behaviors.
Aside from venting negative emotions in a non-violent way, people may in-
creasingly resort to such media to achieve another essential goal. According to
Kirsh (2019), the portrayal of violent fantasies, including those in video games,
movies, television, and books, can assist people to calm themselves in the face of
real-life violence, consequently diminishing their fears and anxieties. Being
shocked by an image in the safe context of fantasy can allow people to avoid be-
ing shocked in reality (Kirsh, 2019). This observation is as close as the researcher
came to explaining how anxiety reduction could be achieved, to enable coping.
Somewhat similar is the view of Srivner and Christensen (2021), who claimed
that some of the horror movies feature decreased anxiety, while concurrently
building resilience skills, including the cognitive ones that enable coping with
fear and anxiety. Lincoln (1998) too, offered a brilliant rationale behind the pop-
ularity of such movies: they indicated that a cataclysmic change resulted in weak
people being exalted and mighty ones being humbled (cited in Hamonic, 2017).
Yet, this revanchist driver addressing frustration over the socioeconomic gap is
universal, or such that, may not necessarily gain particular relevance during
crises like the pandemic (although adverse welfare shocks can aggravate frustra-
tion). Actually, it must be that the perception of the current harsh reality can
become easier when genre viewers compare it with that portrayed in such horror
films. Current issues can appear dwarfed, in relation to those faced by cinematic
characters; hence, life is easier to live, even despite, there being a large-scale
pandemic and collateral issue.
There is actual evidence of the fear-reducing potential of exposure to violent
media content, according to Kirsh (2019), and a case in point, visualizing the
trend, comes from the Columbine massacre. Andrew, whose relation to the
tragic event was not identified, was said to have become anxiously preoccupied
with school shootings. Still, his fears associated with this type of traumatizing
events were rather quick to abate as a result of his watching a gory and violent
movie called “Natural Born Killers”. Consequently, the consumption of zom-
bie-themed entertainment could have comparable outcomes. Still, it was also
noted that the ability to have the emotional adjustment effect was contingent on
the characteristics of individuals, and the gratifications sought by them, in the
process of such media consumption (Kirsh, 2019).
It is good that people have more sense than to resort to aggressive outbursts;
still, the question is whether the consumption trend will stand going forward,
particularly when the pandemic draws to a close. On the one hand, the negative
stressor that feeds the watching impulse will be mostly gone by then. The very
relevance of watching such movies can fall apart, with old preferences dusted off
by consumers, including comedies. On the other hand, the reality may be more
intricate than presumed. When the pandemic ends, at least some people may
still stick with the apocalyptic genre, for example, those who might have devel-
oped sympathy for a certain character, such as Rick Grimes from the TWD un-
10.4236/ojbm.2021.95131 2434 Open Journal of Business and
iverse, or another protagonist from the crew of survivors, or an antagonist like
Negan, although the reasons for their continued preference could be different.
An important impact of the pandemic is to ensure the exposure of consumers,
who would not otherwise taste the genre to the product. Once they get to do so,
while in the midst of the pandemic, it could create a testing imperative or im-
pulse, and they can become fans of that genre, never to abandon it. With regard
to reasons, aside from the personal emotional attachment to any character, there
can arise positive associations with a book/film since the new-gained horror ge-
nre consumption habit allowed reducing negative conditions and became a cop-
Here, a behavioral theory, such as classical conditioning, may be at work.
Berkley and Kaplan (2019), who explained the mechanism also identified res-
pondents of Pavlovian conditioning—a learning procedure, in which, a pre-
viously neutral stimulus was paired with a powerful stimulus. Based on the
learning process that stems from pairing, the neutral stimulus starts evoking a
response that is associable with that elicited by the powerful stimulus (Berkley &
Kaplan, 2019). In the current context, the apocalyptic genre was a neutral sti-
mulus that was not used to incentivize a positive outcome, such as the reduction
of negative emotions, until consumption. This first-ever consumption expe-
rience, when followed by emotional state adjustments, is likely to have led many
to develop positive associations with what previously left them indifferent, with
the result that the genre will be sought if only to achieve the same emotionally
stable conditions that enhance satisfaction and happiness. Still, this quest can be
conditioned, that is, the relevance and frequency of the genre’s consumption
may depend on the presence of negative emotions, although many viewers and
readers may consume it, regardless of finding some enjoyment in aspects beyond
its emotional impact, which can be the narrative, characters, etc. Hence, the ha-
bit of reading/watching the apocalyptic genre that sometimes wanders into the
horror category may persist, proving itself more viable than growling and scrat-
ching characters in the films and TV series now preferred more than earlier.
People who indulge in binging are currently not only hooked on media prod-
ucts and literature, but also on groceries and other goods, which are still high on
the agenda of at least some people, who would just as soon stock up on them,
rather than run the risk of missing out on critical commodities. The study by
O’Connell et al. (2020) confirmed the panic-buying trend by examining other
researchers’ findings. For example, Keane and Neal (2020) found a spike in
searches for terms like “toilet paper” based on Google search data (cited in
O’Connell et al., 2020), while Baker et al. (2020), Cox et al. (2020), and Hacioglu
et al. (2020) pointed to a significant increase in grocery spending (cited in
O’Connell et al., 2020). In digital terms, grocery store sales experienced a 77%
upswing during a single week in March 2020 itself (Yoon, 2020). Apparently,
high prices build an impression of commodities being in short supply, which
makes individuals panic. Whilst in this mode, the judgment of individuals gets
Open Journal of Business and Management
clouded, which leads to irrational consumer choices, such as stocking up. The
role of high prices is likely, as confirmed by Cariappa et al. (2020), who pointed
to Indian respondents, of whom 75.31% faced an increase in food prices and
acknowledged limited access to food markets, while Dastagiri (2019) acknowl-
edged the influence of prices that may act as price signals or the information
conveyed to producers and consumers.
However, as with the apocalyptic genre of literature and cinema, the removal
of a stressor, such as the pandemic, will render stocking useless, as consumers
will realize that there are no longer any reasons for logistic and supply disrup-
tions over the standstill of production facilities, which is normally responsible
for the stimulation of an erratic buying behavior devoid of rationality. Hence,
panic-buying is but a temporary issue, barely visible even at this juncture, since
the pandemic and its threats have crystallized, with people aware of what to ex-
pect, in the sense, that there is no uncertainty as was the case when the world
was months into what eventually became a global pandemic. Now that the world
has adjusted itself to the new living and operational conditions, uncertainties
and the respective fears are too distant to cause the former panic buying, even
pending the final eradication of COVID-19.
3.4. Homemade Cooking—A New Reality? Is There a Life for
Aside from the apocalyptic content, people may take to watching what will allow
them to cook wonderful dishes, even in the absence of any previous habit or
skills, which has another consumption implication. In 2017, the share of su-
per-consumers who were used to cooking a lot and who loved to do so was only
two-thirds of its 1997 level and represented only 10% of the American popula-
tion. Cooking virtually experienced the shift that sewing faced in its time, in the
sense that what used to be almost everyone’s routine was reduced to a hobby
enjoyed by a small minority (Yoon, 2020). This analogy has found reflection in
many sources, including those by Wolf (2014), who described home sewing and
knitting as largely instinct based, and Hua (2018), who confirmed the loss of in-
terest in cooking in counties, such as the UK, which holds especially good for
young people. However, the decadence of home cooking did not prove irreversi-
ble, and the pandemic marked the end of the negative trend, whose persistence
had translated into the demise of the old habit, and paradoxically enhanced the
viability of consumption at restaurants and other facilities in the same format.
Yoon (2020) reported a 66% decrease in restaurant sales over the course of a sin-
gle week in March in the US. Although smaller, the decline still stood at an im-
pressive 48% in the following month (Yoon, 2020). In China, restaurants fared
far worse as their sales declined by 95%, and neither were car sales in a better
shape, with a 92% fall in rate (Rezaei, 2021). India comes close to matching this
impact in the restaurant sector, if not overshooting the rate, since Debt (2020),
who citing the National Restaurant Association of India, put the cumulative loss
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of local restaurants at an estimated $9 billion in the pandemic year (cited in
Goyal & Gupta, 2020). This cross-country variability in impact is likely due to
the nature of the response determined by the political model of the state and the
democracy index, as China seems to have managed to activate the level of discip-
line not enjoyed in the West, where people are used to exercising constitutional
freedom. In addition, the religion-driven culture of obedience and the
face-saving personal imperative is likely to have facilitated the observation of
state-sanctioned regulations by the residents. In any case, the pan-global down-
ward consumption spiral could be associated directly with the virus whose era-
dication should reboot the interest of restaurant-goers. There is empirically
backed substance to this belief as Williamson (2020) found that 45.87% of res-
pondents expressed intense unwillingness to resort to in-seat dining until a vac-
cine was endorsed and rolled out.
Yet, aside from indicating the impact of restrictions, the decline can also be
symptomatic of the acquisition of cooking skills by Americans, which is what
presents a reason for concern. Hence, the curve may not change its trajectory
much, since the pandemic created an opportunity for people to dust off their
mothballed cooking habits and master the art of cooking. Since many individu-
als who were reluctant to cook or who procrastinated mastering cooking em-
braced the routine, there is the possibility of at least some restaurants facing an
existential threat. A survey performed by Hunter, a food and beverage marketing
communications firm, and cited by Yoon (2020) reported 54% of Americans to
be cooking more. The results were compared with behavioral trends prior to the
COVID-19 outbreak (Yoon, 2020). The comparison also showed that the baking
frequency increased by 46% (Shoup, 2020). As such, one could dismiss this fig-
ure, which is too generalized, but it may include respondents who cook nowa-
days, not being able to afford going to restaurants owing to financial struggles
induced by the pandemic. Alternatively, they could find themselves compelled to
sit at home because of the lockdown, or they can work from home without eat-
ing at restaurants adjacent to their offices, being relevant. Hence, the removal of
these factors can cause these consumers to return to restaurants. Still, optimism
aside, cooking can have been found too enjoyable for the routine to be ditched.
Although Williamson (2020) predicted a 10% increase in the intention to cook
more meals at home, this figure may fall short of the likely number of home
cooking enthusiasts. Hunter’s survey, which was cited by Yoon (2020) found
that 35% of respondents derived pleasure from cooking more than ever before.
Shoup (2020) raised the share of those enjoying the routine to 73%, also adding
that the kitchen-based confidence of 75% had mounted, which could be due to
50 % being able to learn more about cooking. Given these positive dynamics, if
the number of cooking enthusiasts should increase by thrice its current number
without declining, restaurants could face adverse repercussions (Yoon, 2020). In
fact, upwards of 51% of those who were cooking more expressed their resolve to
persist with the habit even once the crisis was over, which may be due to the
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benefits that cooking has to offer, including money saving, healthy eating, expe-
rimenting, and relaxation acknowledged by 58%, 52%, 50%, and 50% of the res-
pondents, respectively (Shoup, 2020). The overall sentiment is not surprising, as
eating with family and cooking tends to become a new entertainment activity,
with coffee shops and restaurants closed down, as follows from Qataris’ percep-
tion of this new pastime (Ben Hassen et al., 2020), which seems a universal ra-
ther than a location-specific trend.
The development of an interest in cooking does not necessarily emerge unin-
duced. In fact, the mechanism of operant conditioning might be at work that
could drive even adults to adopt the rewarding behavior of routinely cooking,
and to keep practicing it even after the pandemic ends. Kratcoski (2018) ex-
plained this mechanism as a method of learning, which takes place via punish-
ments and rewards for behaviors, and an association is believed to be built be-
tween certain behaviors and the results that ensue. The behavior modification
concept follows the underlying scholarly principle of cause and effect. Individu-
als learn that specific behaviors will result in either a negative or positive out-
come, based on their past experience of known repercussions (Kratcoski, 2018).
A positive outcome or reinforcement could be tangible or otherwise. When in-
tangible, it could come in the shape of an approving look or praise (Vito et al.,
2006), and this may be what could follow when the skills relating to mastery of
home cooking are put to good use. Gaining the praise of family members en-
courages the person cooking to adopt this routine, only if it retains the ability to
elicit approval and praise. To make certain that they do master culinary skills
and gain a praise-winning level of mastery, people forced into quarantine can
learn from the best. When they do, the process is compatible with the major
postulates of the social learning theory, that according to Edinyang (2016), posits
that people can assimilate, master, and replicate new behavior through the ob-
servation of others. This adoption is especially likely, when observational expe-
riences are positive and when they contain rewards associated with the behavior
(Edinyang, 2016). While watching cookery programs on TV, viewers can hear
cooks getting a round of applause for their dishes, which could plant the idea in
the newly made amateur home cooks’ minds that comparable gastronomical
success would draw a similar positive response. It spurs their acquisition of skills
through observation and subsequent practice during the pandemic period.
This psychological excursus aside, the trends of cooking mastery and enjoy-
ment may transform into actual losses faced by the hospitality sector. William-
son (2020) found that over 50% of respondents had no intentions of revisiting
restaurants in the post-pandemic period. Still, the future picture of the industry
status quo is far from simple, as seen in the visiting intention stratification based
on facility type that follows. Even if consumers are willing to grace some restau-
rants with their presence, they will be very selective, as Williamson (2020)
showed that the decrease ranged between 4% and 44% for food trucks and buffet
style facilities, respectively, which caused the study to predict great struggles for
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the latter category of restaurants owing to the shifting desires of their clientele.
The other notable popularity losses that could affect the industry in the time to
come are quick service, fast-casual, and casual categories, whose pre-pandemic
popularity levels are down by 18%, 14%, and 13%, respectively. The buffet model
is expected to fare the worst since it has entered a strong decline phase despite
being characterized by cheapness. The researcher was surprised not to have ob-
served a shift in consumers’ intent toward food trucks, since the model offers
them the opportunity to either take food home or eat it outside. Instead, fine
dining gained in popularity by 8%. Fine dining is an eating style usually occur-
ring at expensive restaurants where particularly good food is served to visitors,
often in a formal fashion.
It would be appropriate to interpret these findings, including examining the
reasons for the buffet concept now being increasingly shunned, which could be
due to the exposure of ready-cooked food to bacteria that could emanate from
visitors’ sneezing, etc., while helping themselves to some of the dishes left unco-
vered (see Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2021). Likewise,
food trucks too might not conjure up associations of safety, since cramped space
may be belied to offer little room to observe all the hygienic standards, despite
food being served in the open without there being too many people, rather than
in a poorly ventilated room, as is the case in traditional restaurants (see Euro-
pean Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), 2020) warning about
the danger of poor ventilation as a precondition for transmission of respiratory
infections]. By comparison, in the case of fine dining, since the service is elabo-
rate, consumers are likely to be convinced that their food will be safe. However,
the probable reason for this category having experienced only a meager increase
is because such food service comes at a high price. This tendency arguably comes
as no surprise, given the financial impact of the pandemic that is likely to have
boosted price sensitivity across the wide spectrum of consumers. This safe-
ty-centered way of thinking is likely in the wake of the lethal pandemic, in which
contagion is greatly facilitated through non-compliance with the hygiene rules
by many. This factor is likely to be all-important, since despite the cheapness of
buffet-style facilities, the concept has not been spared even at the current junc-
ture of financial uncertainty. Thus, it has become the signature feature normally
drawing specific consumers to an undesired bargain. Williamson (2020) was so
pessimistic regarding the buffet model that neither food maintenance at safe
temperatures nor sneeze guards are believed to be capable of enhancing the per-
ception of this model as safe. Furthermore, this study refrained from speculating
about the dining public’s potential returns on the risk-averse clusters, while the
respective prediction was consigned to the industry and academics, as such, who
could attempt to answer the question.
Overall, it is worth noting that these changes in values acting as consumption
behavior determinants have altered the position of consumer needs in the re-
spective hierarchy. Jung et al. (2015) opined based on Maslow’s hierarchy of
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needs, that by virtue of comprising the heart of physiological needs (the topmost
tier of the pyramid), food stands as the main choice-shaping factor, with price
and service quality being secondary. The next comes safety, as the second tier
(cited in Hsu et al., 2018). Love and esteem represent the third and fourth tiers
of needs, respectively (Hsu et al., 2018). Hence, it could be that safety has gained
supremacy in the wake of the pandemic, and health fears have been instilled into
consumers, which has put more crowded restaurants with perceived lower hy-
giene standards on the margin of the gastronomical landscape. However, the
hierarchy of needs may not be an undisputable navigator, as its tiers can be un-
even in terms of need seniority/relevance, with observable demographic differ-
ences. Voon (2012), who studied various kinds of restaurants arrived at the con-
clusion that service quality was a key determinant in restaurant choice, which
holds good for young consumers as it is regarded as a way of being respected,
although food quality was also stressed by this consumer cluster, as in the case of
fine dining restaurants (cited in Hsu et al., 2018). With this finding in view, it
would be rational to opine that the shift in consumer behavior related to choos-
ing the restaurant type is likely to be demographically variable, as youth seek re-
spect ensured by food quality. This driver is focal for younger consumers, since
they are yet to achieve a standing in society, as well as the financial means that
will command respect. Hence, restaurant-based quality makes them feel that
they are esteemed and serves as a compensatory factor. However, the question is
whether younger consumers will be able to afford fine dining, particularly since
the crisis seems to have curbed financial opportunities for many. Even if
youngsters are preferred by businesses for positions, in an effort to save funds
amidst operational uncertainties where the lack of experience will not send the
stock falling, yet, they will not be entitled to significant salaries that would suf-
fice to pay for fine dining.
One of the studies, however, has presented results that seem to cast doubts
even on the viability of fine dining, while simultaneously offering a glimmer of
hope to cheaper restaurant options. Madeira et al. (2020) referred to the stance
of numerous famous entrepreneurs and chefs, including Martin Berasategui, the
owner of a three-star Michelin restaurant in Spain, who had voiced their con-
cerns about reopening, since they expect a lack of clients owing to the anxiety
about visiting facilities. Although Berasategui (2020) has ranked the fear of re-
turn to restaurants as the biggest challenge to be overcome by consumers (cited
in Madeira et al., 2020), this obstacle is not insurmountable. José Avillez (2020),
a top-profile chef in Portugal heading Belcanto, a local two-star Michelin res-
taurant, that employs 500 workers in its different restaurants, warned that re-
covery would be a matter of a long time (cited in Madeira et al., 2020). While va-
riable spatially across consumer groups and the willingness to pay is expected to
increase by 6% in the post-pandemic period (Pope, 2021), Klein (2021) has of-
fered an even more optimistic forecast, suggesting that customers’ bills will
climb to twice their pre-pandemic value, given that the respective businesses are
10.4236/ojbm.2021.95131 2440 Open Journal of Business and
maintaining high standards of cleanliness.
Hence, on the path to recovery, safety of the services will play an essential role.
The survey results cited by Klein (2021) showed that sanitization standards
ranked fourth, whereas prices ranked tenth. Pope (2021) seems even more con-
vinced when it comes to supremacy of cleanliness within the set of consumer
values guiding buying decisions, and reported that with the rotation of consum-
ers’ values, sanitation and cleanliness would transition to the top of the hie-
rarchy of choice factors in terms of importance. With this change, the price of
menu items as a factor has been ousted (Pope, 2021). Still, industry profession-
als, such as chefs, consider prices an essential factor, and rightfully so, given the
financial impact of the pandemic on people’s welfare and the corresponding un-
certainty, that usually stimulates saving behavior. Restaurants can further boost
the perception of service safety by going cyber and arranging deliveries. Brewer
and Sebby (2021), who assessed the impact of online restaurants’ menus on
consumers’ buying intentions, indicated that the information and visual appeal
of such menus played a key role in consumers’ intentions, especially when they
perceived the COVID-19 risk. The convenience of online food ordering and the
desire for food has a direct influence on consumers. This stance is concordant
with earlier findings, including by Dixon et al. (2009) of growing online food
ordering popularity being partly driven by precision, speed, and ease of the me-
thod (cited in Brewer & Sebby, 2021). This trend does not suggest that the price
factor falls into commercial oblivion. For a restaurant to discount its way into
consumers’ minds and eventually to keep them interested, could follow, accord-
ing to Chef Joan Roca (2020)—head of El Celler de Can Roca, a restaurant in
Spain with three Michelin stars—who considers that these businesses will be
better off reconsidering the business model and providing low-priced menus if
they are to survive (cited in Madeira et al., 2020). According to Brehaut (2020),
some restaurants have already adapted to new operational conditions. One such
instance is Noma—a two-star Michelin restaurant in Denmark owned by Chef
René Redzepi and once regarded as the world’s best restaurant—that has trans-
formed itself into a wine bar selling hamburgers, for no reason other than to
survive (cited in Madeira et al., 2020).
3.5. Existentialism and the Change of Values—Consumerism No
The lack of good food may eventually help individuals to shed the existential cri-
sis that has crept in, which has its own negative consumption implications.
Blough and Brazeau (2021) associated COVID-19 altering people’s lives, with an
existential crisis of American society that is expected to drag on for years to
come. Shiraev (2016) explained an existential crisis as a period when individuals
question the foundations of their life, asking whether their lives have any value,
purpose, or meaning. When life is believed to lack purpose or meaning, the con-
cept of existential nihilism is also applied, which Bates (2016) associated with
Open Journal of Business and Management
Friedrich Nietzsche, who correlated existential suffering with the loss of control
and powerlessness. Blough and Brazeau (2021) suggested that after experiencing
an existential crisis, individuals are unlikely to revert to old norms. Ducharme
(2020) arrived at a similar conclusion on COVID-19 having sourced a val-
ue-changing existential crisis, drawing an analogy between it and other crises
that were said to get people analyzing and modifying their values.
Thus, as averred by Ducharme (2020), subsequent to natural disasters, indi-
viduals may grow more religious, which is deemed a coping strategy. Pew Re-
search Center’s survey, which accumulated upwards of 3700 answers, reflects the
perceived sense of urgency to elicit lessons from the pandemic that are not only
practical, such as the importance of wearing masks. The respondents also singled
out personal and spiritual lessons, such as believing in the relevance of valuing
intimacy and humankind, and praying harder and more often (Ducharme,
2020). While the extent to which this survey is representative is not obvious, its
sample was not small, and it does point to the wake-up call provided by the
pandemic that seems to mark the shift of values towards greater religiosity and
interpersonal relations, rather than consumption. Thus, change can eventually
become a value or norm as essential as consumerism, that Prabhu (2021) defined
as an economic and social order which encourages and supports the purchase of
services and commodities in ever-rising amounts. The researcher also used the
concept of crazy consumerism, as if to show, that the philosophy has grown out
of proportion, becoming a near-cultic obsession. In its stead may come values
and philosophies, such as the ascetic way of living and minimalism, which Wa-
tanabe (2020) has defined as promoting the things one values the most and re-
moving everything that distracts one from what is important.
It is now essential to respond to these findings. While one could expect people
to lose interest in more extravagant and less practical categories of goods, such
as luxury items, yet, its buyers stem from the wealthy social stratum that seems
unaffected by the virus, which makes the change of values less likely in this con-
sumer category. Godfrey (2021) points to the worst wealth gap and the immuni-
ty of richer individuals to the financial impact of the pandemic, and Picchi
(2021) shows a much-improved financial situation of the rich, with billionaires
having grown 54% wealthier during the depressing COVID-10 period. Instead,
an existential crisis could have changed less wealthy individuals’ consumption
habits in one of the following ways. The crisis of existentialism can see people
lose confidence in their power, which can breed skepticism about the future and
the need to gain money that is instrumental in buying. Hence, they may forsake
buying, for the most part, resorting to minimalism or purpose-driven or selec-
tive buying of what is functional and relevant. Furthermore, people may begin to
wonder what good it is to act altruistically, if despite buying and distributing
goods among the needy, their karma does not improve, and they do not obtain
divine protection for being kind. However, if existentialism leads to people be-
coming more religious, and if this religiosity manifests itself through sharing
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with others, the consumption habit may not suffer. As for the factor’s longevity
in influencing consumption behaviors, for the most part, one should expect the
existential crisis to die down with time, as stressors driving disillusionment and
devaluing life vanish or lose intensity with the passage of time.
The Pandemic’s Persistence—Is It Enough for a New Habit to
Rise? Can Every Consumption Behavior Be Perpetuated?
As shown in the multiple scenarios above, the behavior of consumers changes in
one way or another. The longevity of this change, or rather its permanence, de-
pends on how habitual it becomes. Lally and Gardner (2013) and Wood and
Neal (2007) defined habit as a learned action executed with minimal cognitive
input (cited in Harvey et al., 2020: p. 3). Behaviorists, such as Hull (1943), Skin-
ner (1938), and Thorndike (1998), indicated that habits developed and gained
strength via the repetitions of reinforced responses and associative learning
(cited in Harvey et al., 2020: p. 3), while cognitive scholars, such as Schneider
and Schiffrin (1977) and Wason and Evans (1974), pointed to the relevance of
automaticity in habit formation (cited in Harvey et al., 2020: p. 3). One of the
studies that dwelt on this aspect measured the median time needed for one to
develop a habit. Lally et al. (2010) provided comprehensive insights into how
long it takes for a habit to form. A trial spanning a total of three months in-
volved 96 participants who picked behaviors related to drinking, eating, or other
activities to be performed on a daily basis in a single context. Participants
reached 95% of their asymptote of automaticity in periods ranging from 18 to
254 days. Judah et al. (2018) and Keller et al. (2021) confirmed the same dura-
tion range, whereas Lieber (2016) pointed to the likelihood of the same share of
habit formation. Hence, there is a great deal of variation in the time required for
individuals to reach their automaticity limits, which can turn out to be very
time-consuming (Lally et al., 2010). However, the media period of habit estab-
lishment stands at 66 days, according to Au (2012), Dean (2013), and Protzman
et al. (2017), and Keller et al. (2021).
It is important to note that there are a range of factors determining the like-
lihood of habit acquisition. Verplanken (2006) indicated that a higher level of
automaticity could be achieved by simpler behaviors, as compared with complex
ones (cited in Lally et al., 2010: p. 1000), which resembles the finding of Chen et
al. (2020), who differentiated between easy and more complex tasks that could
take up to 18 and 254 days, respectively. Since none of the behaviors presented
qualify as complex ones (e.g., buying), the odds of habit development should be
higher, and it could be considered as another essential determinant of habit
formation. According to Lally et al. (2010), omissions also serve as an essential
determinant of habit formation. While it was found that missing a single oppor-
tunity for behavioral performance did not materially influence the process of
Open Journal of Business and Management
habit establishment, James (1890) asserted that habit acquisition was about un-
interrupted performance (cited in Lally et al., 2010: p. 1000). Others who vir-
tually did so were: Bhatia (1973), who stressed the importance of an uninter-
rupted continuity of performance as a way of boosting a specific behavior mode,
Dudley and Goodson (1986), who linked habit strengthening directly to unin-
terrupted repetition, and Miller (2003), who mentioned the need for uninter-
rupted and regular repetition of acts. Yet, Lally et al. (2010) doubted the feasibil-
ity of the criterion of habit formation in the real world, claiming that at almost
all times there are occasions when the behavior is not performed. This attitude
somewhat resembles the skepticism of Wood and Rünger (2016), who claimed
that habits might not take shape with complex tasks, in which different response
choices result in different rewards.
Even so, individuals tend to develop habits regardless of the circumstances
(Lally et al., 2010). Still, interruptions cannot be overly frequent or extensive;
else, individuals are likely to be hard-pressed to acquire any given habit. This
presumption makes sense, as Armitage (2005), who reported the results of a
study that examined the acquisition of exercise habits over a period of three
months, found behavior performance lapses to be negative predictors of future
performance, when behavior was evaluated in weekly blocks, although a lapse
implies non-visiting for a seven-day time (cited in Lally et al., 2010). This
lapse-based finding is concordant with the stance of other researchers, including
Teta and Teta (2016) and Straza (2017) regarding loop interruption as central to
habit disruption. Hence, the duration of the lapse in habit performance played a
role as it spanned as many as seven days. Still, unlike exercising, which is not all
too critical, meeting a basic physiological need like eating is more essential. Since
restaurants had forcedly been stop short of meeting their customers’ needs of
being fed, people were forced to switch back to home cooking without the habit
being discontinued. The habit formation scenarios inspected earlier, deserve
examination in terms of habit formation in a more elaborate way. Moreover,
uninterrupted repetition is not the sole determinant of habit establishment, as
NIH News in Health (2012) showed that enjoyable or good events could also
launch the reward centers of the brain, thereby giving rise to a habit eventually.
According to Carter (2019), the reward is the third element of the habit loop,
alongside a cue and a routine. Satisfied, the reward gets the brain to remember
the loop (Carter, 2019), and a positive reward in the shape of praise or improved
familial relations that may follow. For example, as a result of cooking mastery,
may do away with the need to repeat the action scores of times for a habit to
In the case of the pandemic, while some people might develop habits, such as
home cooking, in the space of 18 days, others would not have done so until 254
days, after the onset of the routine activity got repeated, without significant in-
terruptions. In the context of the pandemic, it implies that lockdowns that often
are not overly extensive will lead only some consumers to develop the complete
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habit of home cooking. Many others may have the formation process disrupted
by the reopening of these businesses, which can tempt them to revisit, which
they will do, depending upon their household’s financial health. Since reinforced
responses along with associative learning repetitions are involved, classical and
operant conditioning may be at work, since positive associations with a neutral
stimulus of a new consumer choice and positive reinforcement via the intangible
reward of praise, for example, could be the habit development and strengthening
ways singled out by the behaviorists.
Overall, the imposition of restrictions that paved the way for the development
of habits, such as home cooking, was uneven, being determined by the epidemi-
ological state of affairs. In other words, restrictions interfering with consumers’
ability to frequent restaurants, for example, will be lifted every now and then in
different countries, and it is likely to be even more, in economies dominated by
the service sector, which normally leads to gross underperformance when ar-
rested by domestic clientele and foreign visitors’ poor or nonexistent mobility.
Hence, in more service-oriented economies whose individual status was deter-
mined by the dearth of natural endowments (resources) and/or the limited abil-
ity to deploy smokestack industry facilities, the frequency of removing restric-
tions on the operational capability of restaurants is likely to have been higher,
and this interruption of restrictions should keep local residents from having ha-
bits become deep-seated or permanent. Further, the financial factor should not
be overlooked, as uncertainty and income loss/contraction cannot but influence
habits, regardless of how uninterrupted the operational restrictions are. Thus,
closedowns are not solely responsible for contributing to the uninterrupted na-
ture of the cooking habit, given the potency of the financial factor, which pre-
sumes that the habit in question is unlikely to go if the uninterruptedness of its
performance is to be considered as a habit formation factor/mechanism. When it
comes to the watching/reading habit related to the apocalyptic genre that some-
times borders on the horror category, non-interruption, may be the reason for
the consumption habit and preference shift not to become permanent unless ex-
ternal stressors abate, thereby rendering it less necessary for one to be watch-
ing/reading such content. If people find enjoyment therein, aside from the im-
perative of emotional adjustments, that may cause them to consume the cine-
matic and literary genre, the lack of emotional disturbance will not lead to their
abandoning their consumption habits. However, if present, it will doubly
prompt consumers to ramp up their reading or watching of the respective genre.
In fact, at times, one cannot help but wonder, if some people are particularly
keen on seeing others develop habits during the pandemic, such that they disre-
gard the pleas of healthcare regulators and agencies by walking around un-
masked or throwing crowded parties at their mansions. This situation calls for
restrictive measures to return, be they lockdowns or other limitations, feeding
the relevance of the repetition of routine actions necessitated by the pandemic
and its threats, pending habit emergence, which can be that of cooking.
Open Journal of Business and Management
Hence, this study’s aim to examine the type of changes in the consumer behavior
induced by COVID-19 has been achieved, with the following set of findings.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be impactful, as seen in the changes
in consumer behavior. Predictably, one of the changes has been the activation of
the saving mode, which seems to be induced by financial uncertainty and the
actual loss of welfare sources. While it is presumed that the saving behavior will
go away, it is doubtful that it will disappear in the foreseeable future, not only
due to the difficulties faced by countries to gain a proper vaccination pace, but
also because economies have been dealt a heavy blow. This setback creates a
disbalance between the job demand and job offers and provides a fertile ground
for pay abuse on the part of employers. Hence, the disappearance of saving be-
havior is contingent on the success of COVID-19 eradication and economic re-
covery, which should drive a perceptual change in financial security. A some-
what surprising finding was that some people venture to spend much, which has
certain therapeutic or coping benefits; yet, this behavioral trend is characteristic
of materialistic individuals who are intent on the acquisition of material assets.
One does not necessarily have to be materialistic to mass-consume in the pan-
demic as consumers have switched increasingly to the apocalyptic genre in me-
dia and literature, as if aware of its cathartic or therapeutic effects. In fact, people
are unlikely to have such knowledge unless experts or all-round binge eaters
provide it. Most likely, noticing the relief that comes with reading books in that
genre or watching movies and/or TV series of the same genre, people develop
their individual preferences (owing to the classical conditioning mechanism of
forming positive associations with what is watched/read), at least pending its re-
levance (based on the persistence of the virus), in a bid to gain the much-needed
relief from stress and other negative emotions. TV content may also lead people
to learn in the social context and develop their cooking habits, particularly given
its rewarding benefits, which can leave restaurants struggling over a decrease in
consumption that can also occur if disillusionment results from an existential
crisis and the subsequent loss of a perceived life purpose results in a poor mon-
ey-earning enthusiasm. The study’s major findings:
Overall, behavioral change patterns involve a change in terms of category pre-
ferences, buying intensity (including loss of buying enthusiasm due to an exis-
tential crisis, and/or the saving imperative), and the transition of people to the
status of product producers (restaurant services replace home cooking).
In many cases, stressors are the major reason for the change to be accompa-
nied by limitations, barring access to services. Hence, their removal will strip the
new consumption trend of its relevance (e.g., saving and cooking can lapse into
irrelevance after the economy recovers and the lockdown is lifted).
Still, operant and classical conditioning can ensure the retention of some ha-
bits due to their rewarding nature and positive associations, the latter signaling
the likelihood of achieving the desired results.
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Some of the habits may also persist regardless of determinants and benefits,
given that habits reach automaticity if repeated more than several scores of
times, although the acquisition odds vary markedly. Hence, time is likely to wipe
out some of the newfound habits, yet chances are that some could stand the test
At this point, to understand whether changes in consumer behavior are a
short-term exemption of the norm or mirror a lasting change, companies will
fare better by carefully analyzing the reasons for changes in their revenues and
the possibility of changes in consumer behaviors having a lasting effect. Doing
so will facilitate making accurate day-to-day and long-term strategic decisions,
without suffering losses in what has become a volatile and somewhat poorly pre-
dictable operational environment.
That COVID-19 has an impact on the economies and consumer behavior be-
came obvious. This research structures and analyzes existing data to the answer
the important question: Will the changes in consumer behavior last and there-
fore force businesses to reconsider their business models, or will these changes
be temporary. When it comes to research limitations and future research ave-
nues, the findings seem contrary to major limitations, including the relative def-
icit of quality sources encountered in the course of this study. Since there is a
clear deficit of studies that focus on diverse consumption patterns, it has incen-
tivized the current research design, which in turn, would stimulate further re-
search efforts to present an exhaustive picture of consumption in the post-
COVID-19 scenario. Cross-country behavioral comparative studies, if con-
ducted, would further enrich the body of scholarly literature, particularly if the
countries analyzed represent different clusters of states based on economic and
other indices. Such a focus and its business implications could do much to faci-
litate the operation of businesses seeking practical applications of research find-
ings. It is this outcome that underscores this study’s importance, and which
could help navigate the operational vector of businesses by predicting consumer
behaviors through interpretations of the experts’ findings and forecasts. This
approach would allow businesses to wisely allocate what are sometimes fast-
shrinking resources, without laying off their personnel and failing to contribute
to the health and restoration of economies. In addition, this diverse perspective
could stimulate the replication of the research design by other researchers and
the further enrichment of scholarly discourses.
Conflicts of Interest
The author declares no conflicts of interest regarding the publication of this pa-
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