CivicScience | Comfort Shopping Brick-and-Mortar Retail Hits a High Point – But Will Confidence Stick Around for Holiday?

Retail

Comfort Shopping Brick-and-Mortar Retail Hits a High Point – But Will Confidence Stick Around for Holiday?

Image Credit: Photo by Demian Smit from Pexels

Weekly positive coronavirus case numbers in the U.S. are back up to August averages, and consumer concern matches that, and then some. American’s concern about the spread of the coronavirus shot up over the past two weeks, dramatically so this past week. More than half of adult respondents (51%) say they are ‘much more’ or ‘somewhat more’ concerned about COVID-19 as they were the week prior. Three weeks ago this number was at 30%. That’s a huge two week increase.

This same data point has not been above 50% since the week of July 19th. Like case counts, we’re going backwards a bit.

While not as drastic, the data show that over the past few weeks people are becoming more concerned about personally contracting the virus themselves. 

When it comes to the level of concern about being out in public, the percentage of those who report being ‘very’ concerned increased this month among adults over the age of 35, but the same can’t be said for younger adults. It’s actually gone down steadily in the 18- to 24-year-old cohort since July.

What stands out the most about this is all age groups (read: everyone) increasingly report having firsthand experience with a coronavirus diagnosis (either themselves or someone they know). 

So while Americans under 35 are just as likely to have this experience as older Americans, the data suggest they really aren’t too concerned about it.

One key indicator in our data over the past few weeks is what Americans do (comfortable) and do not (uncomfortable) deem generally safe overall. 

Increasingly Uncomfortable: Restaurant Dining

As the weather grows colder, less people report planning to dine indoors, but more people plan to just order takeout. Again, while the percentage of people who were comfortable dining out hit a high point in mid-September, this has gone downhill again over the past few weeks.

Increasingly Uncomfortable: Travel

After comfort traveling reached a high point at the beginning of September, we’ve seen it slowly decline over the last few weeks. Now, only 29% of consumers report that they’re comfortable doing so.

Any sort of travel plans – airline or otherwise – has reached the lowest point we’ve seen since July. Sixty-eight percent say they do not plan to travel at all in the next month.

Increasingly Comfortable: Retail stores 

While travel and restaurants may feel more and more risky to some people in recent weeks, comfort shopping in non-grocery stores reached another high point this week. Sixty-two percent of adults report comfort shopping in person. Could this be a saving grace for retailers this holiday? It feels like the one thing that most people are comfortable with, possibly because you can more easily protect yourself while shopping (most national chains require shoppers to mask up).

As another example of this optimism over retail, consumers are increasingly reporting week over week that they’re shopping in stores (for non-grocery items) about the same amount as they usually would this time of year.

Ah, the Economy

One notable indicator in the economic sentiment data CivicScience tracks is that an increasing percentage of adults expect it to be more difficult to find a new job over the next six months. This is not surprising as it’s somewhat of a foregone conclusion that coronavirus relief talks won’t lead to a deal until post-Election Day. After which, as we know, anything could happen.

While overall concern about the coronavirus and being out in public has increased, there’s hope right now for retail, as the majority of adults feel comfortable shopping in stores right now. 

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