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Shoppers plan slow return to public places – with retailers and entertainment taking a hit

A global study of 15, 277 consumers across 17 countries, including the UK, US, Spain, Germany, France, India, China and more has found that, regardless of when lockdowns are lifted they plan a slow return to the high street and all other public places. They also suggest that they are going to be very cautious about how they spend their money.

According to Global Webindex, almost half of consumers quizzed globally say they will not return to shops “for some time” or “for a long time”. This rises to nearly 60% for large outdoor venues, such as sports stadiums, music festivals, and climbs still higher to two thirds for large indoor venues like cinemas, concert halls, sports arenas.

Globally, only 6% say they will return immediately to large outdoor venues, and only 4% anticipate an immediate return to indoor ones. The figures for shops are slightly higher, but even then it’s only 9% who expect an immediate return to normality.

Expectations around returning to shops are fairly consistent by age, income and gender. Elsewhere, demographic variations can be stronger; boomers and the higher income group are the most likely to say they will delay returning to large outdoor or indoor venues.

Growing numbers expect a hit on their personal finances

While catching COVID-19 is one of the key retardants to renewing shopping and other commercial activities, the study also finds that many shoppers are worried about their personal finances as a result of the pandemic, as well as the general state of their domestic economies.

While the number worried personally is less than 50% in most countries, the figures are creeping up in most markets, with particularly notably jumps in Brazil and South Africa – two of the markets which are least optimistic about overcoming their national situations.

By country, figures for expecting a big or dramatic impact on personal finances can vary from as low as 25% in Germany to as high as 86% in the Philippines. The US and UK have both seen little change in their figures across waves 1, 2, and 3; this suggests that, despite the deterioration of circumstances in both places, consumers remain convinced that they will be able to weather the storm. 

Concern about the global pandemic continues to outpace national worries

 In almost all countries, the study finds that levels of concern about the global situation are higher than those seen for the national picture.

China continues to record one of the biggest gaps (35 points), but it is now followed very closely by New Zealand (28 points). The latter’s recent announcement that it has effectively eliminated the spread of transmission is likely to be a big driver here.

Australia and Germany also record larger than average gaps – with Germany’s concern about its national situation having dropped 9-points since wave 2, a reflection of the country’s perceived success in tackling the crisis)

When asked if they are optimistic about their country overcoming the outbreak, results are strikingly different.  China once again remains exceptional, with almost everyone feeling positive (93% in waves 1 and 2, vs 92% in wave 3). It’s also one of the only places where no movement in the figures over the last month.

In contrast, we’ve seen sustained and in some cases substantial increases in optimism in Australia, Germany, and South Africa. Conversely, we’ve seen consistent drops in optimism in France, Italy, Singapore and – most notably – Spain.

9 in 10 in most countries expect a big impact on national economy

If consumers remain largely optimistic about their own personal finances, this mindset is completely reversed when it comes to the outlook for the national economy. China, Germany, and the US are the only places among the 17 countries surveyed where fewer than 90% expect a big or dramatic impact nationally.

New Zealand records the biggest disparity in terms of the expected personal vs national impact: in that market, 34% expect a hit personally but 93% are bracing themselves for a national impact – giving a gap of 59 points. Nevertheless, the figure passes 50 points in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the UK and the US.

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