Shopping Experiences Before and During the Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many countries experienced a lockdown. All non-essential businesses were temporarily closed, which included clothing stores. Although essential stores, such as grocery stores, remained open, their policies drastically changed. It is difficult to remember a time where we did not need to wear masks to enter a store, line up to buy groceries, or had to show proof of vaccination to eat at a restaurant.

Image of a retail store's front door with a post-it-note on the front reading, "sorry we are closed....covid-19".

Disposable & Discretionary Income

Image of a woman putting a coin into a traditional-looking piggy bank (small pink pig that holds money).Before the pandemic, I barely shopped online. However, that quickly changed. Fortunately, I did not lose my job during this time and maintained a decent disposable and discretionary income. Disposable income is “the amount of money we have leftover to invest, save, or spend, after paying personal income taxes” (Niosi, 2021), whereas discretionary income includes necessities (Niosi, 2021). In other words, I was able to purchase necessities such as PPE and continue buying items I desired, such as a Mackage jacket.

Hedonic Shopping

Image of a female shopper in a fashion retail store looking at clothes while wearing a mask.Although online shopping proved convenient and easy at the height of the pandemic, I missed the hedonic shopping experience. This type of shopping experience involves “enjoyment, excitement, captivation, and escapism from everyday life” (Niosi, 2021). Visiting Metrotown shopping mall and browsing through its many retail stores has always helped me to relieve stress. Often, I would go shopping  with friends or my family: finding unexpected deals on desired items was always exciting and satisfying.

Attitudes & Lifestyle

Attitude is the long-lasting evaluation (positive or negative) that we have towards people and things (Niosi, 2021). The change from in-store to online did not change my attitude toward shopping itself. Throughout the transition, I maintained a positive and favourable attitude towards shopping. According to the ABC’s of Attitudes, the affective (how we feel), behavioural (how we act), and cognitive (our thoughts and beliefs) components are equivalent for a positive attitude. In other words, these three components remained aligned to maintain my positive attitude.

Image of over a dozen pink and orange balloons that have smiley faces on them.

From grocery to clothing stores, retail shopping plays a huge role in my lifestyle. Lifestyle refers to our attitudes, interests, and opinions (Niosi, 2021). As mentioned, I have a positive attitude toward shopping. My interest level varies depending on the product or brand. For example, during the pandemic, I gained a greater interest in health supplements, such as Vitamin C and Zinc. My opinion on shopping is also dependent on the product or brand. For instance, retail shopping is essential unless we grow our foods or sew our clothing.


One of the other factors I missed about moving from in-store shopping to online  was not being immersed in a retail store’s atmospherics. This concept refers to the physical aspects, such as music, lighting, and colour, that affect our decision-making (Niosi, 2021). Typically, I find that if a store plays music I liked, I will spend more time browsing and looking around. Consequently, if I enjoyed my time in a store, I am much more likely to make a purchase.

For example, I really enjoy the atmospherics of Aritzia. Here are just a few that influence my shopping experience:

Infographic depicting the key variables that influence retail shopping experiences such as the external variables, the internal variables, the layout, design, and point of purchase decoration.
Fashion retailer, Aritzia, has many variables that influence the consumer shopping experience. These include: external signage; in-store music such as R&B and hip hop; the helpful grouping of branded merchandise; the decorative aesthetic elements throughout the store such as plants and other greenery; and the attentive and knowledgeable staff.

Naturally, online shopping doesn’t replicate the in-store experience and therefore the atmospherics have less influence on me as a consumer. However, this decisional factor is not present in online shopping.


As I began to engage in more online shopping, I discovered that I rely on more “mental shortcuts” to help me make decisions. Heuristics – the concept used to describe mental shortcuts – helps consumers simplify the decision-making process (Niosi, 2021). Some retail sites, such as Sephora, carry many different brands and products: while browsing, I always find new items that I add to my cart. However, I only end up purchasing a few products (these few items are my regularly used skincare and make-up products). Since I am unable to sample products in-store, I tend to stick to those most familiar to me: as such, my go-to heuristics focus on saving me money, time, and effort.

Heuristics can take on many different forms, these are a few that I’ve used in different consumer contexts:

Infogrpahic depicting the variables that influence shoppers such as saving money; getting quality puchases; staying loyal to certain brands; and supporting local businesses.
Heuristics that help with decision making may include: saving money (for allergy medications, sometimes the least expensive is just as good as all the other options); prioritizing quality (when it comes to online fashion purchases, stick with quality brands you know instead of experimenting with “cheaper” alternatives); supporting local (however “local” might be defined, some competing brands that are produced off-shore may not be better than what can be purchased closer to home); strong visuals (minimalist design that reflects more sustainable options for the win!).


Image of a very crowded street in a metropolitan urban centre somewhere in the world.When stores finally reopened, the shopping experience changed with a clear focus on practicing important safety precautions: line-ups; temperature checks; and, hand sanitizing stations became common and expected fixtures in most if not all stores. Due to the pandemic and shopping capacity limits, I have not found myself in a busy store lately. Personally, it has been nice not to experience being pushed around or bumped into when shopping. Crowding influences our decision-making (Niosi, 2021). It can result in more or fewer buyers (Niosi,2021). When a store is overcrowded, visitors may become frustrated and abandon the item they wanted to buy. Alternatively, some customers may become greatly influenced to take their time shopping and buy more. This may be the result of observing other shoppers purchasing a desired item. Due to the lack of in-store crowding, I have felt more at ease to look around the entire store and purchase items. Before the capacity limit, crowded stores would frustrate me and often result in me leaving empty handed.

Despite the changes, the pandemic did not alter my attitude or habits toward shopping. Take the personality quiz below to find out what type of shopper you may be!


  1. Do you make repeat purchases from a specific brand?
  2. Do you tend to spontaneously purchase items?
  3. Do you bring reusable bags for shopping?
  4. Is recyclable packaging important to you?
  5. Do you purchase products from your own country because you view them as better?
  6. Do you usually go shopping for enjoyment or to fulfill a need?
    To fulfill a need
  7. Is supporting brands from your country important to you?
  8. When you need allergy medication, do you buy your usual brand? Or do you consider alternatives?
    Usual brand
    Consider alternatives

By Victoria Ly (December, 2021)

Media Attributions

Text Attributions

Niosi, A. (2021). Introduction to Consumer Behaviour. Licensed under CC BY-NC-SA-4.0.



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