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Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis

As COVID-19 progresses and more regions begin to reopen, US consumer sentiment is mixed, with many consumers unsure of the future. The next normal is beginning to emerge, and consumers indicate some of their behavioral changes may stick in the long term.

US consumers’ optimism has declined since mid-March, with 33 percent of consumers expecting an economic rebound within two to three months. Just under half of consumers reported a reduction in spending in the last two weeks, and looking ahead, 30 percent of consumers say they will reduce their spending over the next two weeks. However, discretionary spending intent is starting to rebound since our first survey, led by food, personal-care services, and pet-care services. Consumers intend to increase online shopping for household essentials and entertainment, a shift that has been driven primarily by millennials and higher-income consumers.

Consumers are also adopting and intensifying behaviors, especially digital ones

Consumers are starting to adopt new behaviors, including shopping on new websites, shopping at new grocery stores, trying curbside pickup, getting groceries delivered, using telemedicine, and trying videoconferencing for professional or personal reasons. There are several additional categories where consumers are increasing their participation, such as entertainment streaming and quick-service restaurant drive-thrus.

The next normal has started to emerge, with consumers indicating they will adopt long-term behavioral changes that will last beyond COVID-19

Consumers who have switched to new brands or retailers largely intend to stick with them, with nearly two-thirds of consumers who have switched to a store brand indicating an intent to continue. Consumers also intend to reduce in-person activities such as travel, going to the mall, and attending movies, concerts, and events. Consumers exhibit a strong intent to continue digital pastimes such as online streaming and fitness as well as physical activities such as spending time outdoors and using digitally-enabled exercise machines. In contrast, activities that are specific to the COVID-19 crisis, such as workarounds for largely in-person activities—including curbside pickup and remote learning for kids—are less likely to stick around once the crisis passes.

Looking toward recovery, consumers are waiting for critical milestones before resuming in-person activities and returning to stores

Consumers have not been engaging in many activities outside their homes, with the exception of shopping, working, and seeing their families. For those who report living in areas that are no longer restricted, get-togethers with friends, dining at restaurants and bars, and salon visits have been more popular and are expected to increase in popularity in the upcoming weeks. Of consumers who have not yet engaged with out-of-home activities, four-fifths are waiting for milestones beyond the lifting of restrictions; they are largely waiting for medical authorities to voice their approval, safety measures to be put in place, and a vaccine to be developed. As consumers contemplate returning to shopping in stores, cleaning and sanitization is the number-one priority, followed by the usage of masks and installation of barriers.

These exhibits are based on survey data collected in the United States from May 18–24, 2020. Check back for regular updates on US consumer sentiments, behaviors, income, spending, and expectations.

About the author(s)

Shruti Bhargava is a senior expert in the Philadelphia office; Courtney Buzzell is a specialist in the Waltham office, where Christina Sexauer is a specialist; Tamara Charm is a senior expert in the Boston office; Resil Das is a specialist in the Gurugram office; Anne Grimmelt is a senior expert in the Stamford office; Cayley Heller is a consultant in the New York office; Ahbay Jain and Sebastian Pflumm are consultants in the San Francisco office, where Kelsey Robinson is a partner; Janine Mandel is a consultant in the Denver office.

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