Americans plan to travel more domestically by vehicle, cook more at home, spend more on streaming entertainment, electronics, smart home devices, vitamins, personal care and pet supplies after the pandemic than they did before it, according to a new survey from global management consulting firm L.E.K. Consulting.
But they reported they’ll spend less post-pandemic than before it on dining out at restaurants, using Ubers, Lyfts and taxis, and going to movies, sporting events and live concerts. Those are among the findings of The Great Reopening and Priority Reset: Consumer Insights, based on a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers conducted at the end of the first quarter 2021.
“The good news is that spending in many consumer categories is on the rise,” said Lauren DeVestern, Managing Director at L.E.K. “But the way consumers spend will change. They report that they will remain cautious about crowded spaces and be eager to continue some of the new ways of living they picked up during the pandemic.”
Vaccination rates may be a factor in Americans’ future plans. As of June 18, approximately 148 million Americans had been fully vaccinated for COVID-19 and another 28 million had at least their first dose. According to the L.E.K. survey, about 10% of Americans reported they never plan to get the vaccine and another 11% indicated they’re still unsure about getting it. With 65% of adult Americans having received at least one shot as of June 18, according to the CDC, L.E.K.’s survey findings imply that over 80% of those who intend to be vaccinated have already taken action.
Among the highlights from the survey on how consumers report they will spend and live, and what they will expect, once the pandemic is under control:
Use of stimulus checks
- Most Americans (63%) reported they plan to use their stimulus checks defensively – 43% say they will increase savings and 20% say they will pay down debt.
- Another 20% reported they will use the funds for essential monthly expenses. Nearly 75% of that group said it will be for groceries.
- Only 8% reported they’ll use the money for discretionary purposes, like dining out.
Leisure travel – more of it, but in different ways
While the survey findings suggest that business travel will not return to pre-pandemic levels, Americans report they will do more leisure travel post-pandemic than they did pre-COVID, but they plan to do so in different ways:
- Americans plan to increase the time and/or money they spend on leisure travel by 6% post-COVID as compared to pre-pandemic levels.
- The intention to increase leisure travel post-COVID is more pronounced among younger Americans: 14% of Millennials and Gen Z expect to take more trips, and they expect to spend 7% more on travel than they did before the pandemic.
- The top changes to leisure travel activities that Americans anticipate post-COVID, relative to pre-pandemic: 29% of Americans reported they expect to be more interested in driving to their destination rather than flying or other modes; 26% said they will seek out travel activities that allow for greater social distancing after COVID is contained; and 21% reported having gained interest in new and different vacation activities they would not have sought out before COVID-19.
A shift in how Americans will get their groceries
The pandemic clearly accelerated the adoption of online grocery shopping – but many consumers are turning to in-store shopping as the pandemic abates.
- In-store: 88% of Americans reported that they bought their groceries in-the store before the pandemic, and 80% reported they will get them in-store after COVID-19. That’s up from the 73% who said they got them in-store during the pandemic.
- Online: 20% of Americans reported they plan to buy groceries online (either shipped home or picked up from the store) post-pandemic. That’s down from 27% who report they got them online during the pandemic, but up from the 13% who say they got them online before the pandemic.
To cook or not to cook?
The pandemic home cooking trend will stick around – for some.
- 28% of Americans reported they expect to cook at home more often post-COVID than they did before the pandemic. The top-ranked reasons given, in order, are health, saving money and enjoyment.
- At the same time, 17% reported they expect to cook at home less often post-COVID than they did before the pandemic.
“There are many uncertainties about the post-pandemic world, and consumer sentiment reflects that,” said Manny Picciola, Managing Director at L.E.K. Consulting. “But consumers have also discovered a wide range of new preferences – especially centered at home, where they enjoy cooking and entertainment. Both factors are combining to ensure that there is a ‘new normal,’ and that the post-pandemic recovery, while robust, is unlikely to resemble what went before.”