Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis

As American optimism continues to recover, consumers remain worried about spending and safety during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Optimism in the United States has increased to levels not seen since March. While consumers’ spending intent shows improvement from previous months, it remains depressed across discretionary categories. Consumers are cautiously adjusting to the changing environment, with one-third of consumers reporting that they have returned to “normal” out-of-home activity. Anticipating disruptions to the holiday season, consumers plan to reduce spending and shop earlier for deals.

Latest consumer insights reflect survey results from October. Please check back in a few weeks for updates on November consumer sentiment.

Most consumers remain mindful of “discretionary” spending and plan to maintain or reduce spending during upcoming holidays.

Despite increased optimism in the economy, most Americans continue to believe that the impact of the crisis on their routines and personal finances will last beyond the next four months. Compared to prior weeks, consumers report a slight increase in overall spending, while discretionary spending remains negative. Americans are approaching the holiday season with similar spending caution, particularly low- and middle-income Americans. Americans plan to buy gifts for fewer people this year and do their holiday shopping earlier than previous years.

Shock to loyalty is visible in brand and channel choices.

With continued pressure on household income, consumers are trying new brands and channels, seeking both better value and convenience. For the upcoming holiday seasons, more than half of consumers plan to shop at different retailers than last year, with concern for safety being the most important reason driving this change.

Even though 80 percent of consumers report still feeling somewhat unsafe, out-of-home activity is picking up with one-third of consumers resuming “normal” out-of-home activities.

Four out of five Americans have yet to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of comfort with “normal” out-of-home activities. Nonetheless, those who are not currently engaging has decreased consistently, down to 64 percent from 73 percent in late July. Americans are most eager to return to indoor dining and gatherings with friends and family. Higher-income Americans are more likely to miss traveling, attending recreational events such as concerts, going back to the gym, and interacting with coworkers in person. For the upcoming holiday season, more than 80 percent of Americans are making changes to how they celebrate, with more people cutting back on traveling and choosing to spend the holidays with immediate family members, hold gatherings in smaller groups, and celebrate virtually.

Flight to digital and omnichannel will encompass the holiday season.

Consumers continue to shift to online shopping across categories, with half of Americans planning to spend more online than in-store for the upcoming holiday season. Most digital and contactless services have seen increased adoption since April, with more than half of new and increased users reporting an intent to continue post-COVID-19.

These exhibits are based on survey data collected in the United States from October 23–27, 2020. Check back for regular updates on American consumer sentiments, behaviors, income, spending, and expectations.

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