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Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis

While American consumers are relatively optimistic about the economy, their income, spending, and purchasing behavior are changing dramatically.

As governments and organizations continue to work toward containing COVID-19 and stem the growing humanitarian toll it is exacting, its economic effects are also being felt.

Within this context, our latest US consumer sentiment survey (see slideshow below) shows that relative optimism has persisted. Some 41 percent expect the economy to rebound within 2-3 months, similar to Chinese consumer sentiment, and much higher than European optimism, which stands at 13-25 percent). Higher income consumers (those making more than $100k per year) are the most optimistic.

Despite this relative optimism about the economy’s resilience, there are significant signs of concern: 44 percent say they will reduce their spending over the next 2 weeks, and 43 percent are delaying purchases given the uncertainty of the economic outlook.

This intent to spend less has been most dramatic for discretionary purchases: e.g., travel, out-of-home entertainment, apparel/footwear, home furnishings. While there are select categories where consumers expect to spend more (e.g., grocery, home-based entertainment and household supplies), consumers expect to focus this spending online. Interestingly, while Gen Z reports the biggest reduction in income, their expectations for spending are the most optimistic among generations we surveyed.

Consumers are starting to shift their behavior as well, with several categories seeing an uptick in first timers and those increasing their participation (e.g., entertainment streaming, e-Sports, restaurant and grocery delivery, online education and online fitness).

We will be tracking consumer sentiment to gauge how people’s expectations, perceptions and behaviors change throughout the crisis. Exhibits below show US survey data collected. We will update this page regularly.

About the author(s)

The contributors to the development and analysis of this survey include Shruti Bhargava, a senior expert in McKinsey’s Philadelphia office; Tamara Charm, a senior expert in the Boston office; and Sebastian Pflumm and Kelsey Robinson, a consultant and partner, respectively, in the San Francisco office.

They wish to thank Michelle Fradin, Courtney Buzzell, and Resil Das for their contributions to this work.

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