Research

UK adults spent more than £6.6 billion on pandemic purchases they no longer use

Father and daughter playing on a games console

UK homes are host to regretted pandemic purchases worth more than £6 billion, according to a new study from Aviva.

Data taken from How We Live, an Aviva report published today, finds nine out of 10 (88%) of Brits spent money on “treat” purchases during the pandemic at a cost of more than £57.6 billion* across the nation – on average, £1,205 per purchaser.

The most popular purchases were clothes and shoes, a choice for more than half of the UK population at 54%.

Gadgets and electrical goods were must-buys for millions of UK adults during the pandemic, with 34% of people buying smartphones or tablets, 18% splashing out on gaming equipment and 24% choosing kitchen equipment such as air-fryers or bread-makers.

Home gym equipment was snapped up by 16% of UK adults, while musical instruments were the order of the day for 8% of the population.

One in 20 adults (5%) say they bought a hot tub during the pandemic.

“Treat” purchases for UK adults during the Covid-19 pandemic

Item purchased

Proportion of UK adults buying item during the pandemic.

Clothes / shoes

54%

Smartphone / tablet

34%

TV

25%

Garden furniture / equipment

25%

Gaming equipment

18%

Kitchen appliance e.g. air-fryer, bread-maker

24%

Hobby equipment

19%

Jewellery

16%

Home gym equipment / sports equipment

16%

Voice-activated assistant

16%

Computer equipment for personal use

20%

Tools / carpentry equipment

15%

Musical instrument

8%

Pizza oven

6%

Pedal cycle

9%

Sport hobby equipment e.g. fishing, golf

9%

Scooter

5%

Hot tub / jacuzzi

5%

But now millions of UK adults are feeling a twinge of buyer’s regret.

The latest Aviva research suggests many of these items are gathering dust, with 9% of buyers saying they no longer use certain pandemic purchases, 11% confessing they used items less than expected and 8% admitting they didn’t use them at all. Other items have found new homes, with 8% of people either selling or giving away items purchased during the pandemic.

There are a range of reasons given for making these purchases. Most commonly – for two fifths of buyers – people say that they were going to buy items anyway and they just happened to do so during the pandemic.

However, other explanations include spending more time at home (27%), cheering themselves up (26%) and simply relieving boredom (20%).

Almost a fifth (17%) of purchasers point to having more disposable income after losing out on holidays and social events, while one in eight (13%) say they needed equipment for a new hobby.

Buyers’ biggest regrets

Amongst those who say they regretted items bought during the pandemic, gaming equipment was the most common culprit for buyer’s remorse – with almost half of purchasers (45%) regretting games and consoles.

Clothes and tools tied for second place at 43%, with home gym equipment close behind for (39%) of people who bought these items.

Home gym equipment is also the item which is most likely to no longer be used, at 49% of purchases made during the Covid outbreak. This is closely followed by musical instruments, with 48% of pandemic-buyers no longer using them.

Most regretted items purchased during the pandemic

Item purchased during the pandemic

Percentage of people who regretted their purchase (of people who bought this item)

Gaming equipment

45%

Tools / carpentry equipment

43%

Clothes / shoes

43%

Home gym equipment

39%

Musical instrument

37%

Pizza oven

37%

Hot tub / jacuzzi

36%

Sport hobby equipment e.g. fishing, golf

34%

Scooter

32%

Garden furniture

32%

Jewellery

32%

Kitchen appliance e.g. air-fryer, bread-maker

31%

Voice-activated assistant

31%

Smartphone / tablet

30%

TV

30%

Hobby equipment e.g. art / crafting

30%

Computer equipment for personal use

28%

Pedal cycle

27%

The cost of regret is also significant. In fact, those who wish they hadn’t made purchases spent an average of £1,376 on regretted items – notably higher than the typical spend per person.

And with 10% of buyers admitting they have had second thoughts about these possessions, this adds up to a national tally of £6.6 billion* of lamented spending.

"If people have made significant purchases for their home, it’s important that they check they have appropriate cover."

Nicki Charles, GI UK&I Customer & Marketing Director, Aviva says: “So much has changed since the start of 2020. The way we work, how we interact with others – and it seems the contents of our homes too. Faced with weeks or months at home, many of us made purchases to entertain ourselves – often costing hundreds or even thousands of pounds.

“If people have made significant purchases for their home, it’s important that they check they have appropriate cover. Many insurers have a single item limit of around £2,000 for items in the home, so if anyone has splashed out on a lockdown purchase, it’s a good idea for customers to let their insurer know, in case it needs to be listed separately on their policy.

“Even if items are now gathering dust – and our research suggests many are – they may still be valuable, so it’s best to make sure cover is in place, particularly if there’s a chance of picking up that hobby again one day.”

How We Live - full report

The third edition of Aviva's How We Live report looks at attitudes across the UK as recorded in October 2021. 

-ENDS-

Sources

Findings were taken from a survey of 4,003 UK adults, carried out by Censuswide Research on behalf of Aviva in September 2021.

*Based on ONS population estimates of 54,353,665 million UK adults aged 16 and above.

Media Enquiries

Sarah Poulter

UK External Communications

Notes to editors:

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