IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

What and how did people buy during the Great Lockdown? Evidence from electronic payments


  • Bruno Carvalho
  • Susana Peralta
  • Joao Pereira dos Santos


This paper uses novel and comprehensive data on electronic payments from SIBS, the main provider of point of sale terminals and on-line payments in Portugal, to study the impact of the Great Lockdown on purchases. The data aggregates all individual transactions into monthly observations, by municipality and sector, between 2018 and 2020. We employ a difference-in-differences event study that relies on the assumption that the monthly evolution of purchases in the first four months of 2020 would be parallel to that of the two previous years. We identify a massive causal impact on overall purchases, from a baseline year-on-year monthly growth rate of 10% to a decrease of 45%. The sign and magnitude of the impact varies considerably across sectors. Purchases of essential goods such as supermarkets and groceries increase mildly, contrasting with severe contractions in sectors that were closed by government order or depend heavily on tourism, including the leisure industry and restaurants. We find suggestive evidence of initial stockpiling of goods, postponing of essential expenditures, and rapid recovery of purchases in tech and entertainment, possibly to adapt to the confinement. Transactions with foreign-owned cards cause an even greater negative contraction. We disentangle the total effect into the intensive margin of the average transaction and the extensive margin of the number of transactions. Buyers adjust their shopping strategies in rational ways to minimize public health risks: they go less often to supermarkets and buy more each time, and visit local groceries more.

Suggested Citation

  • Bruno Carvalho & Susana Peralta & Joao Pereira dos Santos, 2020. "What and how did people buy during the Great Lockdown? Evidence from electronic payments," Working Papers ECARES 2020-20, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
  • Handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/307531

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    File Function: Full text for the whole work, or for a work part
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Campante, Filipe & Depetris-Chauvin, Emilio & Durante, Ruben, 2020. "The Virus of Fear: The Political Impact of Ebola in the U.S," CEPR Discussion Papers 14518, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    2. Pereira dos Santos, João & Tavares, José & Vicente, Pedro C., 2021. "Can ATMs get out the vote? Evidence from a nationwide field experiment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
    3. Jérôme Adda, 2016. "Economic Activity and the Spread of Viral Diseases: Evidence from High Frequency Data," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 131(2), pages 891-941.
    4. Darin Christensen & Oeindrila Dube & Johannes Haushofer & Bilal Siddiqi & Maarten Voors, 2021. "Building Resilient Health Systems: Experimental Evidence from Sierra Leone and The 2014 Ebola Outbreak," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 136(2), pages 1145-1198.
    5. Adams-Prassl, A. & Boneva, T. & Golin, M & Rauh, C., 2020. "Inequality in the Impact of the Coronavirus Shock: New Survey Evidence for the UK," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 2023, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    6. Douglas Almond, 2006. "Is the 1918 Influenza Pandemic Over? Long-Term Effects of In Utero Influenza Exposure in the Post-1940 U.S. Population," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 114(4), pages 672-712, August.
    7. Robert J. Barro & José F. Ursúa & Joanna Weng, 2020. "The Coronavirus and the Great Influenza Pandemic: Lessons from the “Spanish Flu” for the Coronavirus’s Potential Effects on Mortality and Economic Activity," NBER Working Papers 26866, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. Alexander W. Bartik & Marianne Bertrand & Zoë B. Cullen & Edward L. Glaeser & Michael Luca & Christopher T. Stanton, 2020. "How Are Small Businesses Adjusting to COVID-19? Early Evidence from a Survey," NBER Working Papers 26989, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. repec:boc:pcon20:9 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Darin Christensen & Oeindrila Dube & Johannes Haushofer & Bilal Siddiqi & Maarten Voors, 0. "Building Resilient Health Systems: Experimental Evidence from Sierra Leone and The 2014 Ebola Outbreak," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 136(2), pages 1145-1198.
    11. Bandiera,Oriana & Buehren,Niklas & Goldstein,Markus P. & Rasul,Imran & Smurra,Andrea, 2019. "The Economic Lives of Young Women in the Time of Ebola : Lessons from an Empowerment Program," Policy Research Working Paper Series 8760, The World Bank.
    12. Imran Rasul, 2020. "The Economics of Viral Outbreaks," AEA Papers and Proceedings, American Economic Association, vol. 110, pages 265-268, May.
    13. Wong, Grace, 2008. "Has SARS infected the property market Evidence from Hong Kong," Journal of Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(1), pages 74-95, January.
    14. Carvalho, V & Garcia, Juan R. & Hansen, S. & Ortiz, A. & Rodrigo, T. & More, J. V. R., 2020. "Tracking the COVID-19 Crisis with High-Resolution Transaction Data," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 2030, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    15. Annette Alstadsæter & Bernt Bratsberg & Gaute Eielsen & Wojciech Kopczuk & Simen Markussen & Oddbjorn Raaum & Knut Røed, 2020. "The First Weeks of the Coronavirus Crisis: Who Got Hit, When and Why? Evidence from Norway," NBER Working Papers 27131, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Marianne Bertrand & Esther Duflo & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2004. "How Much Should We Trust Differences-In-Differences Estimates?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, President and Fellows of Harvard College, vol. 119(1), pages 249-275.
    17. Scott R Baker & Robert A Farrokhnia & Steffen Meyer & Michaela Pagel & Constantine Yannelis & Jeffrey Pontiff, 0. "How Does Household Spending Respond to an Epidemic? Consumption during the 2020 COVID-19 Pandemic," The Review of Asset Pricing Studies, Society for Financial Studies, vol. 10(4), pages 834-862.
    18. Scott R. Baker & Robert A Farrokhnia & Steffen Meyer & Michaela Pagel & Constantine Yannelis, 2023. "Income, Liquidity, and the Consumption Response to the 2020 Economic Stimulus Payments," Review of Finance, European Finance Association, vol. 27(6), pages 2271-2304.
    19. Oscar Jorda & Sanjay R. Singh & Alan M. Taylor, 2022. "Longer-Run Economic Consequences of Pandemics," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 104(1), pages 166-175, March.
    20. Karlsson, Martin & Nilsson, Therese & Pichler, Stefan, 2014. "The impact of the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic on economic performance in Sweden," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 36(C), pages 1-19.
    21. Asger Lau Andersen & Emil Toft Hansen & Niels Johannesen & Adam Sheridan, 2020. "Pandemic, Shutdown and Consumer Spending: Lessons from Scandinavian Policy Responses to COVID-19," Papers 2005.04630,
    22. Esselink, Henk & Gijsel, Lola Hernandez-van, 2017. "The use of cash by households in the euro area," Occasional Paper Series 201, European Central Bank.
    23. Jeffrey E. Harris, 2020. "The Subways Seeded the Massive Coronavirus Epidemic in New York City," NBER Working Papers 27021, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    RePEc Biblio mentions

    As found on the RePEc Biblio, the curated bibliography for Economics:
    1. > Economics of Welfare > Health Economics > Economics of Pandemics > Specific pandemics > Covid-19 > Economic consequences > Consumption


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Wright, Austin L. & Sonin, Konstantin & Driscoll, Jesse & Wilson, Jarnickae, 2020. "Poverty and economic dislocation reduce compliance with COVID-19 shelter-in-place protocols," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 180(C), pages 544-554.
    2. Arceo-Gomez, Eva O. & Campos-Vazquez, Raymundo M. & Esquivel, Gerardo & Alcaraz, Eduardo & Martinez, Luis A. & Lopez, Norma G., 2023. "The impact of COVID-19 infection on labor outcomes of Mexican formal workers," World Development Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 29(C).
    3. Bui, Dzung & Dräger, Lena & Hayo, Bernd & Nghiem, Giang, 2020. "Consumer Sentiment During the COVID-19 Pandemic: The Role of Others‘ Beliefs," Hannover Economic Papers (HEP) dp-680, Leibniz Universität Hannover, Wirtschaftswissenschaftliche Fakultät, revised Apr 2021.
    4. de Palma, André & Vosough, Shaghayegh & Liao, Feixiong, 2022. "An overview of effects of COVID-19 on mobility and lifestyle: 18 months since the outbreak," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 159(C), pages 372-397.
    5. van der Wielen, Wouter & Barrios, Salvador, 2021. "Economic sentiment during the COVID pandemic: Evidence from search behaviour in the EU," Journal of Economics and Business, Elsevier, vol. 115(C).
    6. Raymundo M. Campos-Vazquez & Gerardo Esquivel, 2021. "Consumption and geographic mobility in pandemic times. Evidence from Mexico," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 353-371, June.
    7. Todd Gabe & Andrew Crawley, 2021. "Effects of the COVID-related stay-at-home order on hospitality sales and automobile traffic counts: evidence from the State of Maine, USA," Economics and Business Letters, Oviedo University Press, vol. 10(4), pages 336-341.
    8. Fazel Hesham & Harizi Riadh & Nasr Khouadja Sihem, 2021. "What Have We Learned about the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Consumer Behavior?," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 13(8), pages 1-23, April.
    9. Gabe Todd & Florida Richard, 2021. "Impacts of Jobs Requiring Close Physical Proximity and High Interaction with the Public on U.S. Industry Employment Change During the Early Stages of the COVID-19 Pandemic," The B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy, De Gruyter, vol. 21(3), pages 1163-1172, July.
    10. Dräger, Lena & Bui, Dzung & Nghiem, Giang & Hayo, Bernd, 2021. "Consumer Sentiment During the COVID-19 Pandemic," VfS Annual Conference 2021 (Virtual Conference): Climate Economics 242375, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.
    11. Mohammad Hoseini & Abolmohsen Valizadeh, 2021. "The effect of COVID-19 lockdown and the subsequent reopening on consumption in Iran," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 19(2), pages 373-397, June.
    12. Long Hai Vo & Kirsten Martinus & Brett Smith, 2023. "A Demand Systems Approach to Understanding Medium‐Term Post‐Pandemic Consumption Trends," Economic Papers, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 42(2), pages 183-199, June.
    13. Hernan Bejarano & Pedro Hancevic & Hector M. Nunez, 2021. "Impacto economico del COVID-19 en negocios pequenos y medianos bajo restricciones voluntarias e impuestas," EconoQuantum, Revista de Economia y Finanzas, Universidad de Guadalajara, Centro Universitario de Ciencias Economico Administrativas, Departamento de Metodos Cuantitativos y Maestria en Economia., vol. 18(2), pages 23-56, Julio-Dic.
    14. Bruno P. Carvalho & Susana Peralta & João Pereira dos Santos, 2022. "Regional and sectorial impacts of the Covid‐19 crisis: Evidence from electronic payments," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(3), pages 757-798, June.
    15. Cristina Manteu & Sara Serra & Sónia Cabral & Cátia Silva, 2021. "Consumption expenditure during the COVID-19 pandemic: an analysis based on Portuguese card transaction data," Economic Bulletin and Financial Stability Report Articles and Banco de Portugal Economic Studies, Banco de Portugal, Economics and Research Department.
    16. Gabe, Todd & Crawley, Andrew, 2020. "A Note on the Reduction in Hospitality Sales Prior to a State’s COVID-related Stay-at-Home Order: Evidence from Maine, USA," MPRA Paper 102362, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    17. Bui, Dzung & Dräger, Lena & Hayo, Bernd & Nghiem, Giang, 2023. "Macroeconomic expectations and consumer sentiment during the COVID-19 pandemic: The role of others’ beliefs," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 77(C).

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Bruno P. Carvalho & Susana Peralta & João Pereira dos Santos, 2022. "Regional and sectorial impacts of the Covid‐19 crisis: Evidence from electronic payments," Journal of Regional Science, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 62(3), pages 757-798, June.
    2. David E. Bloom & Michael Kuhn & Klaus Prettner, 2022. "Modern Infectious Diseases: Macroeconomic Impacts and Policy Responses," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 60(1), pages 85-131, March.
    3. Archibong, Belinda & Annan, Francis & Ekhator-Mobayode, Uche, 2023. "The epidemic effect: Epidemics, institutions and human capital development," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 211(C), pages 549-566.
    4. Christopher D. Carroll & Edmund Crawley & Jiri Slacalek & Matthew N. White, 2021. "Modeling the Consumption Response to the CARES Act," International Journal of Central Banking, International Journal of Central Banking, vol. 17(1), pages 107-141, March.
    5. Akos Horvath & Benjamin S. Kay & Carlo Wix, 2021. "The COVID-19 Shock and Consumer Credit: Evidence from Credit Card Data," Finance and Economics Discussion Series 2021-008, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
    6. Zhixian Lin & Christopher M. Meissner, 2020. "Health vs. Wealth? Public Health Policies and the Economy During Covid-19," NBER Working Papers 27099, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Horvath, Akos & Kay, Benjamin & Wix, Carlo, 2023. "The COVID-19 shock and consumer credit: Evidence from credit card data," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 152(C).
    8. Asli Demirgüç‐Kunt & Michael Lokshin & Iván Torre, 2021. "The sooner, the better: The economic impact of non‐pharmaceutical interventions during the early stage of the COVID‐19 pandemic," Economics of Transition and Institutional Change, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 29(4), pages 551-573, October.
    9. Brancati, Emanuele & Brancati, Raffaele, 2020. "Heterogeneous Shocks in the Covid-19 Pandemic: Panel Evidence from Italian Firms," GLO Discussion Paper Series 649, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    10. Fang, Guanfu & Feng, Jin, 2021. "Is the 2003 SARS epidemic over? Long-term effects of epidemic exposure on mortality among older adults," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    11. John Gathergood & Fabian Gunzinger & Benedict Guttman-Kenney & Edika Quispe-Torreblanca & Neil Stewart, 2020. "Levelling Down and the COVID-19 Lockdowns: Uneven Regional Recovery in UK Consumer Spending," Papers 2012.09336,, revised Dec 2020.
    12. Davide Furceri & Siddharth Kothari & Longmei Zhang, 2021. "The effects of COVID‐19 containment measures on the Asia‐Pacific region," Pacific Economic Review, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 26(4), pages 469-497, October.
    13. Amanda Guimbeau & Nidhiya Menon & Aldo Musacchio, 2022. "Short‐ and medium‐run health and literacy impacts of the 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic in Brazil," Economic History Review, Economic History Society, vol. 75(4), pages 997-1025, November.
    14. Hodbod, Alexander & Hommes, Cars & Huber, Stefanie J. & Salle, Isabelle, 2021. "The COVID-19 consumption game-changer: Evidence from a large-scale multi-country survey," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 140(C).
    15. David Bounie & Youssouf Camara & John Galbraith, 2020. "Consumers’ Mobility, Expenditure and Online-Offline Substitution Response to COVID-19: Evidence from French Transaction Data," Cahiers de recherche 14-2020, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
    16. Martin O'Connell & Áureo de Paula & Kate Smith, 2021. "Preparing for a pandemic: spending dynamics and panic buying during the COVID‐19 first wave," Fiscal Studies, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 42(2), pages 249-264, June.
    17. Hensvik, Lena & Le Barbanchon, Thomas & Rathelot, Roland, 2021. "Job search during the COVID-19 crisis," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 194(C).
    18. Adams-Prassl, Abi & Boneva, Teodora & Golin, Marta & Rauh, Christopher, 2020. "Inequality in the impact of the coronavirus shock: Evidence from real time surveys," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 189(C).
    19. Çakmaklı, Cem & Demiralp, Selva & Özcan, Şebnem Kalemli & Yeşiltaş, Sevcan & Yıldırım, Muhammed A., 2023. "COVID-19 and emerging markets: A SIR model, demand shocks and capital flows," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C).
    20. Michael Barnett & Greg Buchak & Constantine Yannelis, 2023. "Epidemic responses under uncertainty," Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 120(2), pages 2208111120-, January.

    More about this item


    Portugal; Covid-19; transaction data; consumer behavior; sectoral impacts;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • R10 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - General Regional Economics - - - General
    • D12 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Consumer Economics: Empirical Analysis
    • E21 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Consumption; Saving; Wealth

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eca:wpaper:2013/307531. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: Benoit Pauwels (email available below). General contact details of provider: .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service. RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.