Millions of jobs have been lost. Families are struggling to pay rent. Small businesses have closed.
Those are just some of the financial hardships our state, the nation, and the world have faced during the global coronavirus pandemic.
Despite all of that, some new data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Commerce shows Americans spent more money in the 2020 holiday season than in 2019.
ASU professor of Supply Chain Management Hitendra Chaturvedi spoke back in November of 2020, gathering his predictions of a pandemic holiday season.
“If the numbers turn out good, it shows for me… that’s a harbinger of the mood that we have,” Chaturvedi said in November of last year.
“But if you go deeper into the numbers of retail sale, even though we are holding our head above water, there are a few interesting trends there,” Chaturvedi explained of the new data.
He described the shift from shopping in-person and a spike in retail sales by 40%.
“Where is the saving grace? Online saved the day,” said Chaturvedi.
How was it possible for some people to spend so much during a pandemic?
He explained, there are a variety of factors that go into it.
“Because we didn’t have a place to go out, our savings went up a little bit,” Chaturvedi said.
Also, home values increased. We saw the stock market stay relatively strong. Many Americans received a boost with those stimulus checks in their bank accounts. He also described how the shopping season was extended this year with no traditional Black Friday. This meant, people could spread out their purchases. There is the convenience of online shopping. Plus, many people found hope and excitement in the announcement of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“All of those things… some of them are still there,” Chaturvedi said. “But, some of them are running out of steam.”
He believes higher unemployment numbers are likely on the way.
“All the holiday hiring that happens in October, November, December… in January and February they shed off that hiring,” Chaturvedi explained.
Plus, there is no big shopping season on the horizon and no guaranteed stimulus check to come.
“So, when somebody says, ‘Oh! We spent more.’ Yes, there are six or seven reasons why we spent more,” Chaturvedi said. “But that spending more was, in my opinion, created by factors that are not natural factors.”
He believes there are reasons to be optimistic, but Arizonans must remain realistic.
“We have to take some quick actions of the stimulus, as well as the vaccine,” Chaturvedi said. “If we do that, I think that will give the next boost.”