Biggest contraction ever in household consumption

© Hollandse Hoogte / Jaco Klamer
According to figures released by Statistics Netherlands (CBS), consumers spent 6.7 percent less in March 2020 than one year previously. This is the sharpest contraction in domestic household consumption CBS has ever recorded. Consumers mainly spent less on services and durable goods. On the other hand, spending on food, beverages and tobacco showed an unprecedented rise.

Consumption figures have been adjusted for year-on-year price changes and differences in the shopping-day pattern.

Domestic household consumption (volume, adjusted for shopping days)
Year MonthChange (year-on-year % change)
2016April0.8
2016May1.4
2016June0.8
2016July2.1
2016August1.2
2016September0.9
2016October1.7
2016November2.4
2016December1.6
2017January3.3
2017February2.7
2017March2.2
2017April2.8
2017May3
2017June2.7
2017July2.5
2017August2.3
2017September3.3
2017October1
2017November2.5
2017December1.7
2018January1.8
2018February3.2
2018March3.1
2018April3.3
2018May2.2
2018June2.7
2018July3
2018August2.8
2018September2.2
2018October2.3
2018November2.5
2018December2
2019January1.4
2019February1
2019March1.5
2019April1.6
2019May2.5
2019June1.4
2019July1
2019August1
2019September1.9
2019October1.9
2019November1.6
2019December2.9
'20January0.5
'20March0.9
'20April-6.7

Spending on services and durable goods down in particular

In March, consumers spent 11.8 percent less on services than one year previously. Services include visits to restaurants, hairdressers, theatres, amusement parks, gyms and soccer matches as well as public transportation and house rent. Spending on most services slumped, but on housing it rose slightly. Consumer spending on durable goods plunged by 7.2 percent year-on-year. Purchases of clothes, shoes and passenger cars were down in particular. However, households spent more on electrical appliances than in March 2019.

Spending on food, beverages and tobacco was 9.1 percent up on March 2019. This is the largest increase in this type of spending ever recorded. Households spent 1.5 percent less on other goods, such as natural gas and motor fuels. Energy and water consumption was up, whereas consumption of motor fuels nosedived.

Last week, CBS reported that the Dutch retail sector achieved 3.5 percent year-on-year turnover growth in March 2020. The volume of sales increased by 2 percent. Turnover realised by the food sector increased, while turnover in the non-food sector decreased. These figures were also adjusted for the shopping-day pattern.

Domestic household consumption by category (volume, adjusted for shopping days), March 2020
 change (year-on-year % change)
Food, drinks and tobacco9.1
Other goods (e.g. gas)-1.5
Durable goods-7.2
Services-11.8
Total-6.7

CBS has never recorded a decline in household consumption of this magnitude. CBS has published figures on household consumption since 1922, with the exception of the years 1940-1948. The current monthly time series has been available as of 2000. Data over previous years are quarterly and/or annual data. Data over the years prior to 1995 were not compiled in accordance with the European System of Accounts 2010 (ESA 2010), the current European standard for the national accounts. Furthermore, for the period prior to 1969, only data on national household consumption are available. National household consumption data are different from domestic household consumption data as the former refers to expenditure of Dutch consumers both in the Netherlands and abroad while domestic household consumption refers to consumer spending by both Dutch and foreign people within the Netherlands.

The figures presented in this news release are provisional and subject for revision.

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