Survey: US consumer sentiment during the coronavirus crisis

Although American optimism is recovering, consumers remain worried about spending and safety during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Optimism has increased to levels not seen since April, but spending intent remains depressed as consumers navigate remote learning and anticipate continued disruption through the holiday season. As the government slowly eases restrictions, consumers are cautiously adjusting to the changing environment, with nearly one third of consumers reporting being back to “normal” out-of-home activity. Disruption remains uneven, with greater impact felt by lower-income and older Americans.

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 decline in overall spending and will continue their shift to essentials. Americans are approaching the holiday season with similar spending caution, particularly low- and middle-income Americans.

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. Compared to last year, consumers are more than three times as likely to trade down to lower-cost brands or retailers when shopping a standard basket of goods.

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.

Flight to digital and omnichannel will encompass the holiday season.

Consumers continue to shift to online shopping across categories, with nearly 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 US from September 18–24, 2020. Check back for regular updates on American consumer sentiments, behaviors, income, spending, and expectations.

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