We have come a long way without a doubt, yet the recovery trajectory is still fragile.
The holiday season is in full swing, yet maybe something doesn’t feel quite right.
Anyone feeling that way? If your answer is yes, you are not alone. Our data shows a preponderance of mixed feelings with Christmas just over a week away.
Our story begins with a record 73% of consumers getting into the holiday cheer with their willingness to return to more normal activities. That’s a 7pt increase versus just three weeks ago. Over the past 2 months, joy was finally building as many Americans were stepping out and into restaurants, movie theaters, shopping centers, and jumping on planes for the first time since the pandemic started. It felt like the hustle and bustle of Who-ville was actually and finally happening.
% Had their first in-person visit since the pandemic started
27% Shopped in-person
26% Dined at a restaurant
15% Went to the movies
9% Went to church
9% Took a domestic trip/vacation
7% Went to a live concert
5% Flew on a plane
And then came the news of Omicron.
Logically, we knew that another variant was eminent, but now? Right before Christmas? In the last few days, the Omicron variant became the ominous cloud over our festive spirits, just like the Grinch. At the moment, there is some good news as early concern about Omicron is lower than we saw at the onset of the Delta variant.
% Extremely/Very Concerned about Covid Variant
41% Omicron (mid-Dec‘ 21)
58% Delta (Aug ’21)
Covid concerns can lead to consumers' pulling back on normal activities
Consumer attitudes and ultimately behaviors can change quickly as we have seen throughout the pandemic. Our recent survey shows that 32% of consumers made plans over the last 6 months, purchasing tickets for trips, concerts, movies, sporting events, and ultimately bailed and didn’t go. Why? 40% were concerned about getting Covid, particularly during the Delta surge.
Unfortunately, when asked about their upcoming dining behavior, 45% planned to eat out less during the holidays than prior to the pandemic or not at all vs.18% more often. Consumers aren't ready to return pre-pandemic frequencies.
% Holiday Dining Behavior Change vs. pre-pandemic
18% More often
36% The same
35% Less often
10% Completely Stopped Dining out
"Well, in Whoville they say that the Grinch's small heart grew three sizes that day."
So now what?
Sales are up, but traffic is still down for many businesses, even with consumers venturing out more. As operators, we know that is not healthy or sustainable growth.
For a full recovery, businesses need to attract more people through the door vs. simply raising prices. With labor and staffing shortages, consumers are already questioning is it “worth it." The caution in this holiday tale is to be mindful about too many price increases driving inflation to all time-highs. Consumers are reaching their tipping point.
How can you make it "worth it" for your customers?
Those that lead with joy and deliver it will win over those that don't. It's a simple fact. It's tough out there, no doubt. But, those that are winning today are figuring it out through all the labor and supply shortages by still delivering exceptional and joyful experiences, and not using "covid" as a crutch for poor customer experiences.
Survey data was collected the week ending December 12, 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"