Aug 17, 2021 - Economy

Pandemic spending habits are dying out

A customer shops for back-to-school items at Walmart earlier this month.

A customer shops for back-to-school items at Walmart this month. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

America's spending habits — what and how we are buying — are reverting to pre-pandemic times.

Why it matters: What we're learning so far from a flood of retail earnings this week is companies may have rushed to adapt to changing consumer behaviors, but not all of those habits are sticking around.

What's happening: The number of transactions at Walmart jumped from this time last year as more people shopped in-store. But how much they are spending per transaction is falling — a change from the depths of the pandemic when people stocked up with online purchases and made fewer in-person trips.

  • Sales at restaurants and bars were the bright spot in the July retail sales report — the latest sign Americans continued to shift spending away from stuff to experiences (like dining out), even amid the spread of the Delta variant.
  • Pandemic-fueled, do-it-yourself projects are tapering off. Home Depot reported a sales slowdown in departments that were on fire this time last year: paint, gardening and hardware. DIY customer sales lagged those of professional customers for the second straight quarter.

Between the lines: Consumers are still doling out plenty of money at stores, even if how and what they buy shifts.

  • Home Depot reported record quarterly revenue. And Walmart upgraded how much it'll rake in this year on the back of strong shopping trends.
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