Consumers are returning to behaviors they had early in the pandemic due to delta variant concerns, a nationwide Numerator study found. Survey respondents who said they’re comfortable shopping without a mask dropped 15 percentage points from July to August, with 34% preferring to go in stores with mask requirements and 36% having a higher level of respect for businesses that enforce mask wearing.
Comfort levels decreased for indoor recreation across the board in August, Numerator found. Comfort for attending a concert or show fell 13 points, for gathering maskless with friends and family fell 11, for attending in-person classes fell 11, for eating inside a restaurant fell 9, and for going to a bar or club decreased by 8.
Similarly, an Aug. 19 McKinsey & Co. report titled “U.S. consumer sentiment and behaviors during the coronavirus crisis” found that e-commerce sales remain 35% above pre-COVID-19 levels.
According to Numerator, nearly half (48%) of consumers surveyed expect that a full reopening now won’t occur until 2022 or later. In June, 18% projected a 2022 opening; and in July, that had been bumped up to 23%.
Two in three vaccinated consumers are generally worried about the delta variant, with 62% concerned about friends or family getting infected and 48% concerned they will become infected themselves, according to the Numerator report.
For consumers who don’t plan to get the vaccine, the greatest concerns are focused on mask mandates (44%) and new lockdowns or restrictions (43%). One-third of folks who don’t plan to be vaccinated are concerned about delta’s impact on students returning to school.
For the first time in 2021, the number of consumers who reported that they had resumed pre-pandemic behaviors decreased, dropping from 39% in July to 27% in August. Overall, they’re less optimistic than they were earlier in the summer—1 in 5 report that they’re highly optimistic about a return to normal, down from 1 in 3.
In its monthly economic outlook published Sept. 9, Wells Fargo economists noted the rise in new COVID-19 cases since their previous report on Aug. 12 from about 100,000 new cases per day nationally to 150,000 new cases per day nationally.
“As a result, Americans have generally become more cautious,” the report said. “The University of Michigan index of consumer sentiment, which was released after our August forecast, plunged to its lowest level since 2011, and the Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence also weakened considerably in August.”
Looking forward, the Wells Fargo economists “suspect that the delta variant will become less disruptive at some point, which will set up growth in consumer spending for a few catch-up quarters,” but that “given the unpredictability of the virus, we do not presume to know precisely when that bounce back … will occur, but we currently have it penciled in for the first and second quarters of next year.”
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