Bank finds end to panic buying while online shopping takes over

There is an early sign that supermarket panic buying may be on the wane, if figures from online bank Starling are a guide to how shoppers are behaving.

The bank, which has 1.25 million UK account holders, said the spike in transactions in supermarkets was two weekends ago, and has been falling since.

“Our data suggests that the panic buying seen in the UK’s supermarkets over recent weekends peaked two weeks ago on Saturday, 14 March, with the number of transactions on that day up about 15% compared to pre-virus levels. Over the weekend of 21-22 March transaction volumes fell back to levels seen before the crisis.

The bank’s data also shows how rapidly the country has shifted to online shopping. It said that for the first time, on Tuesday 24 March, online shopping outstripped all other forms of spending.

“Online purchases made by Starling customers, which usually amount to less than a third of the total number of transactions each day, had already reached 40.4% on the eve of the government lockdown, before hitting 51.5% the day after on 24 March.”

The bank also noted how the UK went into voluntary lockdown ahead of government measures. It said sales in pubs and restaurants were already down 40% in the week before most were closed.

“These are early days, but it’s clear that people’s spending behaviour is already changing quite dramatically,” a spokesperson for the bank said. “The sharp rise in online shopping suggests that people are listening to the government and staying indoors.”

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