Consumer anxiety over Covid declining, but financial anxiety lingers

26 March 2021 3 min. read

Global consumers are reporting the lowest anxiety levels since April 2020, though concern over personal finances continues to accelerate, according to a recent report from Deloitte. The consulting firm’s monthly “Consumer Tracker” update, which most recently surveyed consumer sentiment in 18 countries between February 25 and March 3, also found that many pandemic-period habits will continue after the health crisis ends.

Worldwide, anxiety levels are at their lowest in a year, as the vaccination rollout continues. The UK, Japan, and US saw the most improvement, with a 10% decrease in anxiety. Consumer safety perceptions have likewise improved: 51% of Americans felt safe going to the store in late December, while 64% feel safe going to the store now.

A whopping 64% of Americans feel safe returning to work, compared to 51% of global respondents. Nonetheless, Covid continues to be the top driver of anxiety in most countries, followed by financial stress (46%) and unemployment (36%).

In the US, a similar proportion of people are worried about contracting Covid-19 (51%) as are worried about their finances (48%). Nearly one third of global respondents (29%) are worried about making upcoming payments.

Despite indications of financial stress, intent to spend on discretionary items is improving in the US. Three in four consumer plan to spend the same or more on apparel and restaurants in the coming weeks. However, though leisure travel booking intent is improving, one in three consumers say they will wait until the pandemic is over to take a vacation.

Consumer anxiety over Covid declining, but financial anxiety lingers

“The stress of the pandemic is shifting from personal safety to financial security as we turn the corner and vaccinations become more readily available,” Anthony Waelter, vice chairman, Deloitte’s US consumer industry leader, said. “Yet, despite a rise in financial stress related anxiety, consumer intent to maintain or increase discretionary spending is also on the rise, demonstrating more confidence in the recovery.”

Many consumers will continue their pandemic-formed behavior – including avoidance of public events and increased consumption at home. Fifty-five percent of global consumers plan to continue cooking more at home, and 38% plan to order more takeout and delivery than pre-Covid. Almost half (49%) will continue to stream more entertainment to their TV even after the pandemic ends.

Only 23% of global respondents said they feel safe attending an in-person event, and 43% say they will go to these events less often after the pandemic – while 15% say they will go more. A significant 45% of respondents said they will use public transit and ride hailing less than they did pre-pandemic.

Just 29% of consumers said they felt safe to fly, and 37% said they would feel safe staying in a hotel. Consumers expect to fly and stay in hotels less post-pandemic than they did in 2019.

Consumers will also retain their increased preference for ecommerce, with approximately half indicating they will do more shopping online than in 2019, compared to 15% who plan to shop less online post-pandemic.

“As consumers learn more and experience more, we’ll gradually get back to traveling, or mingling among large groups, but it likely won’t be at the pre-pandemic levels. Other shifts are more systemic such as working, cooking, and streaming from home and convenience through online commerce. They are likely here to stay,” Stephen Rogers, executive director of the Deloitte Insights Consumer Industry Center, said.