NEW YORK — Consumers aged 18 and up in the United States are increasingly confident about a return to normal activities, according to a new consumer sentiment survey released by Nielsen.
The study, which includes insights about consumer activity, health, schooling, employment and transportation during the COVID-19 pandemic, examined three segments that reflect attitudes about the pandemic: those who are "Ready to Go," people who "Proceed with Caution" and consumers who "Wait and See" when it comes to resuming normal behavior.
The Ready to Go segment peaked at 61 percent in the March 2021 survey compared to 34 percent in April 2020. Wait and See consumers, a more pessimistic group, dropped to 9 percent in March vs. 29 percent one year ago.
Other key consumer sentiments about recovery from the pandemic include:
- 82 percent say that stores that were closed have started to open again, compared to just 40 percent in April 2020.
- 64 percent agree it is safer than it was a month ago, compared to 38 percent in April 2020.
- 72 percent agree their town is starting to emerge from the crisis, compared to 44 percent a year ago.
The research also found that heavy radio listeners are more likely to make big-ticket purchases within a year. Members of this consumer segment are 18 percent more likely to purchase or lease a new or used vehicle in the next year and 64 percent more likely to buy a house in the next 12 months, compared to total adults.
"As Americans continue to navigate the pandemic, the future looks promising," said Brad Kelly, managing director, Nielsen Audio. "Consumers are becoming more optimistic and resuming more normal activities, especially heavy radio listeners. AM/FM listeners are more likely to be out and about and spending more time in their vehicles."
The study also identified key findings in a variety of other categories:
Vaccines — More than half of consumers (52 percent) have either gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, have an appointment to get vaccinated or have registered to get it when eligible. These consumers are more likely to be male and trend older.
Still, over one four (26 percent) are uncertain about getting the vaccine and one in five do not intend to get vaccinated. Those who are uncertain or don't plan to get vaccinated tend to be younger, female and Hispanic.
Employment — Among the currently employed, two-thirds now work outside the home. This is up nearly 70 percent since April 2020. Additionally, those who work at home due to the coronavirus declined by more than half since April 2020.
Transportation — All groups are using less public transportation due to COVID-19. Those spending an hour or more in vehicles is up 150 percent since last April, and heavy radio listeners are more likely to spend an hour or more in the car.
Schooling — In March, the number of children attending in-person classes exceeded those attending virtual-only classes. Children of heavy radio listeners are more likely to attend in-person classes and less likely to attend virtual classes or be homeschooled. Nine in 10 say the radio is on during the drive to school.
Health and Doctor Visits — Consumers still have significant levels of concern about the health implications of COVID-19, with 65 percent more concerned with the health of a family member or a close friend than their own health (53 percent).
How Local Shopping Has Changed — Nearly eight in 10 consumers are now getting items delivered that they ordered online, compared to seven in 10 prior to the pandemic. In general, fewer are getting items they buy in the store (72 percent) compared to pre-COVID (78 percent). Still, getting items purchased in-store is the second most frequent way people get the things they buy.
Currently, more consumers are getting things they buy in new ways, such as having items they bought in a store delivered to their home (38 percent vs. 15 percent before the pandemic) as well as in-store (38 percent vs. 27 percent) and via curbside pickup (35 percent vs. 22 percent).
Nearly three in 10 consumers expect to do more in-store shopping in the months to come, compared to the 11 percent who expect to do that less, marking a positive sign for the local retail economy. Additionally, consumers expect to do less in-store pickup, less curbside pickup and less home delivery from local stores in the next year, suggesting that having fewer restrictions is likely to spark a return to more normal local shopping habits, according to Nielsen.