Consumers are reporting their lowest anxiety levels since April 2020, according to Deloitte’s monthly survey from around the world. With the continued decline in new COVID-19 cases and a vaccine rollout, anxiety levels in the U.S. have declined by 10 percent, and worldwide, anxiety is at its lowest level since last April.
More than half the consumers surveyed (53 percent) globally reported that they feel safe going to a store. In the U.S., that number jumped from 51 percent in late December to 64 percent. Consuming at home and avoiding crowds are likely to continue after the health crisis has passed, the survey found.
The survey was conducted in 18 countries during the week of Feb. 25 to March 3 — before further lockdown measures were instituted in some European countries — and Deloitte queried at least 1,000 consumers in each country. It found that three in four U.S. consumers plan to spend the same or more on apparel and restaurants in the coming weeks. Signs of optimism are emerging for areas like travel, with vaccinated consumers indicating higher intent to travel and stay in hotels over the next three months.
In the U.S., vaccinated consumers surveyed are 35 percent more likely to plan a flight than those who aren’t vaccinated. Although leisure travel booking intent continues to improve across all categories, one in three consumers surveyed say they are waiting to take a vacation until after the pandemic.
Anxiety levels are declining. The U.K., Japan and the U.S. saw the most improvement of a 10 percent decrease in the past month. More than half (51 percent) of global respondents and 64 percent in the U.S. feel safe returning to work. Despite this, across the globe, COVID-19 health concerns continue to be the leading driver of anxiety for those surveyed in most countries, with financial stress (46 percent) and employment (36 percent) at number two and number three.
In the U.S., nearly as many surveyed consumers are worried about contracting COVID-19 as they are about their finances, 51 percent and 48 percent, respectively. In fact, some 29 percent of global respondents are worried about making upcoming payments, and that number is even higher (36 percent) for ages 18 to 34.
“The stress of the pandemic is shifting from personal safety to financial security as we turn the corner and vaccinations become more readily available,” said Anthony Waelter, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. consumer industry leader. “Yet, despite a rise in financial stress-related anxiety, consumer intent to maintain or increase discretionary spending is also on the rise, demonstrating more confidence in the recovery. With the passing of the stimulus bill recently, and checks beginning to roll out, businesses may very well expect to see consumer spending trends accelerate.”
So what does a post-pandemic world look like?
Post-pandemic, consumers are expected to continue cocooning and keeping their distance from strangers. While around the globe, consumers are feeling less anxious, some behaviors are not likely to return to pre-pandemic patterns anytime soon. Instead, overall many consumers plan to avoid congregating with strangers and continue to consume at home, Deloitte found.
One of the strongest indicators of permanent changes resulting from the pandemic is consumer shopping behaviors. Roughly 50 percent of consumers surveyed indicated they will be doing more shopping online compared to 2019 (about 15 percent plan to do less). In April 2020, U.S. consumers ranked safety as the number-one reason to use “buy online, pick up in store;” however, in the latest survey, safety dropped to fourth replaced by “cheaper and faster than delivery,” suggesting a permanent trend is taking hold.
Expect to see consumers continue to stream their favorite shows.
When it comes to leisure activities, the survey found many consumers still prefer home-centered activities. Almost half (49 percent) of those surveyed plan to continue to stream more entertainment to their TV after the pandemic. Only 23 percent of respondents feel safe attending an in-person event, and 43 percent said they will go to these events less often even after the pandemic. However, 15 percent said they are committed to going even more.
Around 45 percent of those queried said they will be using public transit and ride hailing services less often.
As far as eating habits, globally, 55 percent of consumers surveyed plan to continue cooking more at home than pre-pandemic (only 5 percent said less), 38 percent of respondents plan on ordering more takeout or delivery than pre-COVID-19 (25 percent said they will do it less), rather than eat in person at a restaurant (15 percent plan to do this more than pre-pandemic, but about 40 percent of respondents plan to eat at restaurants less frequently).
Worldwide, respondents said they plan on continuing to work remotely, even post-COVID-19. When compared to pre-pandemic levels, 43 percent of those surveyed believe they will be working more from home, while 18 percent think they will do this less than before.
On the topic of travel, in the near term, pent-up demand for travel indicates a temporary uptick, with 29 percent of consumers surveyed feeling safe to fly, and 37 percent of respondents feeling safe staying in a hotel. However, globally, consumers’ net expectations are to fly and stay in hotels less post-pandemic than they did pre-pandemic.
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