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Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis

As new COVID-19 cases in the US began to stabilize in August, optimism about a quick US economic recovery has rebounded.

Consumer optimism has rebounded and is back to levels seen in mid-April. Across several measures, the improvement seen since April has started to pick up even though the crisis continues to affect consumer behavior in several ways:

Though consumers continue to shift their spending to essentials, “discretionary” spending is slowly recovering.

Most Americans continue to believe that the impact of the crisis on their routines and personal finances will last beyond the next four months. Net spending intent on essentials (e.g., groceries) is still positive, while discretionary spending still shows negative intent. With COVID-19 cases stabilizing further over the last week though, the recovery in discretionary spending has started to resume.

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.

Overall, Americans are still holding back on out-of-home activities.

As fewer consumers believe that cases are going up (down to 34 percent from 49 percent from early August), there is a slight uptick in out-of-home activities. While the majority of Americans continues to refrain from engaging in “normal” out-of-home activities, there is an improvement since the last measure (down to 68 percent from 73 percent from early August).

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

Digital and omnichannel adoption continue 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., buying online for pickup in store, curbside pickup). Shock to loyalty remains, with more than 77 percent of Americans trying new shopping behaviors during the crisis (up from 76% in late July), 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 August 19–23, 2020. Check back for regular updates on US consumer sentiments, behaviors, income, spending, and expectations.

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