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Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis

As new COVID-19 cases in the US rose during July, optimism about a quick US economic recovery has declined.

With COVID-19 cases in the US surging in the last several weeks, consumers’ optimism has declined and is back to levels seen in early May. Across several measures, the improvement seen since early April has slowed down and the crisis continues to affect consumer behavior in several ways:

Consumers continue to shift their spending to essentials and seek value across purchases.

Only spending on “essentials” remains at or above pre-COVID-19 levels, while “discretionary” spending is still far from pre-COVID-19 levels. The recovery in intent to spend on “discretionary” categories that we have seen since early April has been declining since mid-June. Most Americans continue to believe that the impact of the crisis on their routines and personal finances will last beyond the next four months.

There is a renewed concern for health, safety and “care.”

Consumers are actively looking for use of masks and physical barriers when deciding where to shop in-store, and the importance of this visible safety sign has increased since our first measure in May. Companies’ care for their employees continues to be an important buying factor for some consumers.

Consumers have not fully reengaged with out-of-home activities and many of those in local areas most affected by an increase in cases plan to pull back on engagement.

More Americans say they are not engaging in a “normal” level of out-of-home activity (up to 73 percent from 70 percent in mid-July) and they do not plan to increase their engagement over the next two weeks. Around half of US consumers report that COVID-19 cases are increasing in their local area, and the net intent to reduce out-of-home activity is 30 percent.

Flight to digital and omnichannel and shock to loyalty continue as strong trends.

Digital and omnichannel adoption continues and even intensifies in some essential categories. This shift is likely to stay post-crisis with more consumers shopping online and adopting many digital and contactless services (e.g., pickup). Shock to loyalty remains with more than 75 percent of Americans trying new shopping behaviors during the crisis, including new methods, brands, and places, with the intention of sticking with them in the long-term.

These exhibits are based on survey data collected in the United States from July 30– August 2, 2020. Check back for regular updates on US consumer sentiments, behaviors, income, spending, and expectations.

About the author(s)

Tamara Charm is a senior expert in McKinsey’s Boston office; Shruti Bhargava is a senior expert in the Philadelphia office; Resil Das is a specialist in the Gurugram office; Anne Grimmelt is a senior knowledge expert in the Stamford office; Eunice Kim is a consultant in the Seattle office; Kelsey Robinson is a partner in the San Francisco office; and Salvador Tormo is a consultant in the Miami office.

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