The Effects of COVID-19 on Consumer Behavior: As Worries Fade, Will Consumer Confidence Translate into Higher Spending?

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As the economy continues to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the prevailing view is that retail sales and spending will continue to increase in the months ahead. What kind of shopping behaviors can we expect to see?

To support the retail industry through the pandemic, First Insight has been tracking COVID-19’s impact on consumer purchase behavior and attitudes since February 2020. As part of First Insight’s ongoing series of consumer studies, “The Impact of Coronavirus on Consumer Purchase Decisions and Behaviors,” the latest consumer study found consumer worry down for the first since the peak of COVID-19.

When we started tracking consumer behavior, we had no idea the pandemic would continue more than a year later. Our studies track how COVID-19 has changed consumer shopping habits and behaviors. The latest study found that 32 percent fewer respondents said that they were very or somewhat worried about the Coronavirus in April 2021 compared to April 2020. Overall, 59 percent of those surveyed said they were worried, compared to the highest peak of 87 percent one year earlier in April 2020.  

Will consumers start spending at pre-pandemic levels? Not quite. The survey found that six in ten consumers continue to say that they expect to cut back on spending from pre-pandemic levels, which is only a slight improvement (59 percent versus 62 percent) over the same time last year, suggesting that consumer spending habits may make a longer-term shift.

The study also found some improvement in expectations about purchase decisions, with three out of four consumers stating that their purchase decisions have been impacted, down from 89 percent from last year.

We have fielded ten COVID-19 consumer studies over the past 15 months. Our data continue to show that, more than a year into the pandemic, COVID-19 is still very much affecting consumer shopping habits and behaviors and overall feelings of safety while shopping.

The latest study found that as stores continue to reopen there were some increases in feelings of safety when shopping in-store, but the biggest challenge remains the beauty counter. Consumers’ opinion hasn’t changed on the safety of trying on beauty products or cosmetics in-store, with a significant majority—69 percent— feeling it is not safe.

Baby Boomers feel the least safe testing beauty products/makeup, trying on products in a dressing room, trying on shoes and working with a sales associate compared to all other generations.

  • Eighty percent of Baby Boomers don’t feel safe testing beauty products/makeup compared to 68 percent of Gen X, 57 percent of Millennials and 72% of Gen Z
  • Fifty-nine percent of Baby Boomers don’t feel safe trying on products in a dressing room compared to 49 percent of Gen X, 40 percent of Millennials and 51 percent of Gen Z
  • Fifty-eight percent of Baby Boomers don’t feel safe working with a sales associate compared to 53 percent of Gen X, 42 percent of Millennials and 58 percent of Gen Z
  • Fifty-three percent of Baby Boomers don’t feel safe trying on shoes compared to 46 percent of Gen X, 38 percent of Millennials and 49 percent of Gen Z

More than 321 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been distributed and our data found that the majority of respondents already are or plan to be vaccinated. Baby Boomers are the most likely generation to get vaccinated with the majority (83 percent) saying they’ve already been vaccinated or plan to be. Boomers are also the highest percent of any generation (71 percent) saying that they still plan to wear a face mask when shopping in-store after being fully vaccinated compared to 65% of Gen X, 60% of Millennials and 43% of Gen Z.

As vaccines continue to roll out across the U.S., almost half of those surveyed (47 percent) have already received the COVID-19 vaccine. This compares to 24 percent that have not gotten the vaccine, but plan to when able and 29 percent that don’t plan to get vaccinated or are not sure.

For a deeper look at the data and to learn more about COVID-19’s impact on consumer purchase decisions and spending, download First Insight’s infographic here or read our press release for more details.

baby boomers  Survey Results  consumer behavior  consumer spending  Coronavirus  COVID-19  Consumer Purchase Behavior  Purchase Decisions  Consumer Survey  Safety  spending habits