Moscow buys TV, Tatarstan does construction materials and alcohol: how the country lives through lockdown

Russians’ national peculiarities during the coronavirus pandemic

Moscow buys TV, Tatarstan does construction materials and alcohol: how the country lives through lockdown
Photo: Oleg Tikhonov

Realnoe Vremya’s analytic service examined data on Russians’ costs on foodstuffs and daily goods in the first and second quarters of 2020, i.e. before and after self-isolation. Judging by the pattern of expenses, we can say our compatriots in isolation went out only to “buy bread”. But before locking down in homes, they bought a lot of non-food commodities. Purchases vary from region to region. For instance, Muscovites decided to spend time in front of new TV and update other appliances, while Tatarstan residents mainly began repairs but they stocked up on not only construction materials but also large amounts of alcohol. Meanwhile, North Caucasians, according to the statistics, either began to eat less during the lockdown or preferred food from their households to products from shops. Read more about the specifics of consumption in Russia in Realnoe Vremya’s report.

Costs fell three times

With the imposition of self-isolation, Russians’ costs significantly decreased. According to statistics, citizens of the country made purchases fewer by a quarter in April than a year ago. It was the month of the peak of falling expenses, which is no surprise considering the non-working days and strict restrictions on going out. The situation in commerce a bit improved but not seriously by May when the population “relaxed”, was tired of “seclusion” and began to violate the isolation regime. Sales reached just 80,8% of the indicators in May 2019. It rose to 92,3% by June.

During previous years, month-on-month costs steadily accounted for over 100%, which is partly conditioned by inflation. For instance, exceptions were linked with economic reasons when people began to save money “just in case”. For instance, in 2016, the indicator from January to June was from 93,8% to 95,7%. The situation was unusual, but it didn’t worsen as much as it did this year.

It is noteworthy that before the beginning of self-isolation, in the first quarter of 2020, Russians, on the contrary, spent a record amount of money. The costs in January were 102,7% compared to last year, in February, it was 104,7%, in March it went up to 105,7%. Not inflation is perhaps the case here (there weren’t noticeable ups and downs during this period) but because citizens of the country were stocking up. Grain, especially buckwheat, personal hygiene products disappeared from the shelves in the shops within days, if you remember, so toilet paper became a scarce good. In late March, people were stocking products and other goods for the upcoming isolation.

Citizens of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug are the only people whose April expenses remained at last year’s level. We can only guess if this means that they violated the regime or isolation didn’t change their ordinary way of life. Residents of Ryazan, Tomsk and Novgorod Oblasts, Ingushetia and Altai Krai demonstrated a relatively small reduction in costs — up to 95%-97%. While the biggest decrease in consumption was in five regions, moreover, they are all in the south of the country — Rostov Oblast, Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Dagestan as well as Stavropol Krai. Here the costs accounted for than two-thirds below last year’s numbers.

Muscovites’ expenses dropped significantly enough — 68,9% compared to last April. Citizens of Petersburg have the same indicators — 70,5%. Residents of Bashkortostan and Mari El (about 71%) spared the most in the Volga region, the population of Orenburg Oblast and Mordovia (89%) did the least. The indicator of Tatarstan residents is 72,4% against the level of costs in April 2019.

Did Caucasians economise on foods?

The pattern of April expenses showed that Russians mainly economised on non-food commodities, which is clear. Food retail in Russia reduced to 90,8% against last year. While non-food trade plunged more — to 63,6% compared to last year. Moreover, the fall is notable again in the south of the country: the indicator in Kabardino-Balkaria reduced to 40,4%, to 39,5% in Chechnya, to 34,7% in Dagestan. In other words, Dagestanis spent money on clothes, appliances and other things by two-thirds less than in April 2019.

It is noteworthy that a bigger growth of expenses in March preceded the decline in non-food commodities in April. Russians spent by 6,5% more than the previous year, and food accounted for just 4,8%. The case is probably that non-food commodities usually have a longer shelf life.

Far East spends three times more than Chuvashia

We can’t say yet what foodstuffs and other products Russian bought less in self-isolation: the related statistics for the second quarter of 2020 aren’t available. However, we can find out in detail what citizens of the country bought a lot in January-March — before the self-isolation regime was announced. But it is hard to single out a trend here — everything depends on a specific region. According to the statistics in general, a member of a household spent 18,900 rubles on average in the first quarter of 2020. For instance, in Kamchatka and Moscow, this digit is twice as high as the country’s average — about 35,000 rubles. Expenses are also high in northern and Far Eastern regions: people in Arkhangelsk Oblast spend 26,300 rubles a month, 26,000 in Petersburg, 23,000 in Khabarov Krai.

In Kabardino-Balkaria, a person spends just 10,200 rubles a month, in Chechnya and Chuvashia — 10,800. The numbers are higher in other Volga regions, though not significantly: an average citizen in Tatarstan and Nizhny Novgorod spends 17,400 rubles a month, in Bashkortostan — 17,600.

Non-food commodities are the second biggest article of expenditure. They account for a third of the average costs of a Russian citizen. Photo: Maksim Platonov

Poor regions spend more on food

Russians spend the biggest amount of money on food — it is 37% of the total expenses in a month. In North Caucasian regions, the indicator reaches up to 60%, so it seems that the less is spent in general the more the share of food is in these expenses. For instance, in Moscow and Bashkortostan, this share is just 35%, in Tatarstan — 33%.

Non-food commodities are the second biggest article of expenditure. They account for a third of the average costs of a Russian citizen. Their highest share is in Kamchatka and Arkhangelsk Oblast (more than half). The number is also high in Volga regions: 33,5% in Tatarstan, about 35% in Bashkortostan. The least amount of money is spent in Moscow, Smolensk Oblast and Chuvashia — less than a quarter of general costs.

The share of costs on alcoholic drinks is interesting as well. 1,8% on average is spent on alcohol in Russia. While in Novosibirsk, Samara, Ivanovo and Penza Oblasts, in Moscow and Yamal-Nenets Okrug, the share is from 2,5% to 3,5% — it seems it is harder not to drink here. According to official data, this percentage in Chechnya is equal to zero. But it is unlikely that no alcohol has been sold in Chechnya — there is no full ban in the region in any case. So the number “0,0” is rather a result of rounding up. Nevertheless, it makes clear that very little alcohol is purchased in Chechnya.

As for the growth of costs compared to last year — on food, services and alcoholic drinks — the growth in Russia totalled 9-10%. Moreover, people in Moscow began spending more on food by a quarter, by 21% less on non-food commodities (it seems the capital seriously stocked up on food). Similar tendencies are present in Kalmykia, Kurgan Oblast and Saint Petersburg.

For instance, in Tatarstan, the situation is the opposite: people began to spend on food by 4% less but by 8% more on non-food commodities. But costs on alcohol increased as well, by 14% at once.

Going into isolation, Bashkiria bought fish and vegetables, while Moscow did alcohol

Let’s go into statistics and pay our attention to the change in costs on food. On the threshold of the coronavirus, Russians purchased by 11%-14% more alcoholic drinks, vegetables and fruits, bread and dairy. Meat didn’t increase so much in the first quarter — by 8%. It seems that the reason for this was that it can’t be stored for long. Though 14% more fish was bought, though this happened probably because it is often bought by citizens of the country in cans. Demand for eggs and potato didn’t change, which is quite strange.

The situation, however, can vary depending on the region. Costs on bread (not only bread but also staple food) in central Russian regions increase by a quarter or third in some cases (in Moscow, Kaluga, Samara and Belgorod Oblasts). Large amounts of vegetables and melons in Voronezh and Ryazan Oblasts and in Ingushetia and Chechnya — here the growth was over 40%. The biggest growth of costs in Moscow was seen in bread, fruits, berries, milk and dairy, but the biggest rise was in non-alcoholic drinks — by 52%. Tatarstan has notable growth only in two categories of products — different oils (13%) and potato (11%). Demand for vegetables increased (by 31%) and fish (33%) in neighbouring Bashkortostan.

Before quarantine citizens of capitals thought about TV, Tatarstan residents did about repairs

Russians’ costs on non-food commodities grew in the first quarter of 2020. Every citizen of the country spent 6,200 rubles a month on average. Many categories are approximately equal. For instance, Russians spend 18% of their “non-food budget” a month on average, 18,7% on transport (the number looks strange, but it is general costs of citizens on cars divided into the number of citizens), 17,3% — on medical goods and hygiene products.

Costs on medical products (14%) and TV and other appliances (13%) have grown the most over the year. Meanwhile, costs on clothes (by 7%) and construction materials (by 4%) have decreased. Expenditure on appliances has surged the most (by 47%). The amount of money spent on transport has reduced by 87%, by two-thirds on construction materials. Clothing and shoes have decreased by 29%. Saint Petersburg has a similar distribution as well.

The distribution in Tatarstan is different, for instance. Here costs on tobacco increased very much — 4,7 times. Moreover, costs on furniture have grown by 41%. Expenses on construction materials, unlike in the capitals, have augmented, moreover, by 77% at once — it seems that Tatarstan resident understood they would be locked in home and decided to make their neighbours happy about the noise of drills. However, they began to buy appliances by 19% less.

By Maksim Matveyev