Impact of what we’re avoiding right now

Margaret Gilsenan looks at the implications of what Irish people are not doing during the current pandemic


There is no crystal ball with regard to ‘The Covid’, ‘these extraordinary times’ or whatever descriptor that is put on the current crisis. While it is hard to predict what might happen next, one thing we are learning is the impact of what we are choosing not to do or being forced not to do. Below are some pointers, which readers can use as a guide to future behaviour and implications for brands.

First a bit of context, taken from the recent RTÉ survey B&A, where 42 per cent of full-time employees are working from home, 76 per cent of us are being careful about our spending and 78 per cent are worried about getting Covid-19. More positively, deposit figures from the Central Bank suggest there could be as much as €15 billion extra in our bank accounts by the end of the year.

That good news of sorts is as a result of what many of us have saved during lockdown, money just waiting to be spent, if we can get around the aforementioned consumer caution.

So the six behaviours to watch out for and their resulting implications…


We are more worried about strangers and irrationally see greater risk in them than in people we know. It is why we will happily visit homes and sit cheek by jowl with our friends, go to weddings of loved ones and yet dread the thought of travelling on a bus with the same number of strangers. This mentality and our individual sense of stranger danger significantly impacts our behaviour.


Consumers’ reluctance to be among strangers has completely changed how we go about our shopping. In both the UK and Ireland, Kantar has reported that people are visiting grocery shops less often, but stocking up on more groceries when they are there. We are also doing more of purchasing online, a change across the world that has been particularly pronounced among older shoppers.

It is worth noting while online shopping is well ahead of where it was before the pandemic, it has fallen back from its peak mid first lockdown. It was also interesting to read a WARC report published only last month which claimed that despite the reporting of online growth in retail activity, 90 per cent of sales are still happening in physical stores in the UK.

Looking out for new forms of dining: Takeaways across the gamut of restaurants from chippies to fine dining is likely to remain a constant as we continue to strive to replicate our eating out experiences. With restrictions on people’s movement and less opportunity to eat indoors in comfort, people are choosing to dine out in the fresh air. The problem is Ireland’s weather during the winter months is often less than pleasurable.


With people trying to avoid spending time near strangers, there has been a huge impact on browsing. More people are doing goal-oriented shopping – in, grab, go. It is a challenge for new products, or less well known brands, as speed shopping encourages people to go for the familiar, and not even notice the new. Advertisers must alert shoppers to the new now more than ever.


As the phasing changes, we are likely to spend more time at home, but as our routines return to normal, we are less inclined to whip up the feasts made in early lockdown. Where’s all the talk about sourdough gone? Behavioural economic’s loss aversion theory – the efforts we go to, to avoid losing something – means that take-aways will stay with us as we strive to replicate our eating out experiences.


This point is not about the act of working from home itself but its implications. Our lives are more locally based. We are at home to collect deliveries, a real boon for online shopping. We are shopping for all three meals, seven days a week, but we are trying to shop less, a real storage challenge. As was referred to in the last issue of, as city centre coffee shops suffer, local coffee shops thrive.

We are sitting more than ever – creating new aches and pains and potential long term health issues – give in and obey the haptic signal of your fitness device that tells you to move every hour. (It is said that mobile phone use can increase the weight of your head, cause neck strain and posture problems. People are reconsidering and reconfiguring their homes to make them fit for their new extended purposes.


No need for new outfits or weekly blow-drys. Ath-leisure and sportswear is booming. The country’s first Decathlon store was the French retailer’s most successful opening across 59 countries. Less need for new makeup and other beauty products – we don’t even bother to wash our hair as often now. Finally, if loo paper was the panic buy of the early pandemic, toys are the must-have purchase now.

Our Covid-19 Christmas is coming!

Margaret Gilsenan is founder and chief strategy officer at Boys+Girls






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