Clearly, we are experiencing a tsunami of covid cases, testing lines around the block, and empty shelves of home testing kits.
So, what is different this time?
Americans are becoming more resilient as we face each wave. We’ve seen record holiday sales in retail, airports bustling, and sports stadiums at capacity despite another surge.
There are significant differences that suggest we are making strides forward in the Journey Back to Joy. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to minimize the urgency of our current situation, but more to put it into perspective with a longer-term view.
In the near term, the exponential growth in cases has had a devasting impact on the already challenging labor shortages. This is something that will be explored in our next wave of research fielding later in January.
There are 5 things you need to know about the Omicron surge and its impact on the recovery.
1. Breakthrough cases: A confounding variable this time around
2. Omicron concern is high but lower than the initial Delta surge
3. How we are coping is evolving – "tuning" it out is higher than "retrenching"
4. Who returned to stores vs. restaurants may surprise
5. Long term view, we are moving in the right direction
#1: BREAKTHROUGH CASES: A CONFOUNDING VARIABLE THIS TIME AROUND
Consumers are taking notice of the mounting breakthrough cases among the vaccinated and masked. 69% of Americans agree or strongly agree with the statement: It’s extremely concerning that people are still getting covid even though they are vaccinated and wearing masks. Not surprising, this concern is highest among older consumers.
55% Gen Z
67% Gen X
81% Silent Generation
#2: OMICRON CONCERN IS HIGH BUT LOWER THAN INITIAL DELTA CONCERN
What’s the Same?
Consumers are concerned about the Omicron variant which drives consumers to pause and rethink their behaviors
52% are Very/Extremely concerned
64% are Somewhat/significantly reducing activities
While these numbers are still high in absolute, they are significantly lower than initial concerns when the Delta variant emerged.
Point difference Omicron vs. Delta
- 6pts Very/Extremely concerned (52% vs 58%)
- 7pts Somewhat/significantly reducing activities (64% vs. 71%)
Close to half of Americans are a burned out from all the news about Covid-19 that they just don't pay attention any more.
#3 HOW WE ARE COPING POLARIZES
It’s probably not a surprise that the way consumers are coping polarizes. On one hand, 32% of consumers report in late December going out less that week vs. the week before, which is 8 points higher vs. October. Then, opposite of that, 45% are burned out and tuning out, which is 5 points higher since October.
"Joy was in the air" for the "Very Anxious" segment as they were a large part of the Holiday sales boom.
#4 WHO RETURNED TO THE STORES VS RESTAURANTS MAY SURPRISE
In looking at the long-term trends, a potentially surprising trend has emerged. We reported in November that consumers were excited to get back to stores, and consumers did not disappoint. The First out the Door was favorable during November and December unlocking 3 basis points of pent-up demand. But the big surprise was the impressive unlocking of shopping pent-up demand among the "Very Anxious" segment, a full 18 basis points of demand unlocked. Joy was in the air to finally venture out for this group.
To contrast, the restaurant industry has had a much tougher time during the pandemic, including December. Our trended data shows that the First Out the Door retrenched by 8pts which brings pent-up demand of the segment back to April 2021 levels. This indicates more bumpy roads ahead for the restaurant industry. We will be conducting an additional wave of research next weekend to track this significant change.
#5: LONG-TERM VIEW, WE ARE STILL MOVING IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION
The pandemic isn't over by any means. But, when we look closely at the trends, there is some good news - since August of 2020, positive sentiment is trending up with predictable dips along the way as surges happen.
Why the trends matters? Our segmentation is a leading indicator of behaviors time and time again.
What’s the Same?
Anxiousness is on the rise with 30% of Americans reporting being Anxious/Very Anxious, +5pt vs November, and comparable to the Delta Dip. This is not a surprise. With surges come increases in anxiety.
Compared to the Delta dip, overall positive sentiment held and is slightly up as the “Wait and See” group shrinks over time.
% Positive Sentiment Total US
Positive sentiment is significantly higher now vs. Delta among younger consumers and improving among Blacks.
75% Gen Z, +8 points vs. Delta
68% Millennials, +8 points vs. Delta
50% Blacks, +9 points vs. Delta
Survey data was collected the week ending December 21, 2021, by Lisa W. Miller & Associates and Prodege, LLC from a representative sample of 1017 adults 18 years and older.
Click here to learn more about this thought-provoking initiative "Gearing Up For The Consumer Re-entry & The The Journey Back to Joy"