2021 Store Traffic Could Look Like 2020's

Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
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Around 31% of American consumers are unsure about receiving or will not receive the COVID-19 vaccine when available, and those who plan to get vaccinated will not be rushing back in-store.

Promising new COVID-19 vaccines are not enough of an impetus for many consumers to return to in-store shopping, according to two new surveys.

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of consumers around the world said they won’t take an approved COVID-19 vaccine when available, according to a new survey from NielsenIQ. 

Even when vaccines become available, more than half of consumers lack confidence to dine out (58%), attend live sporting events (65%) or travel overseas (70%). And financial challenges still loom large, with more than half of consumers (52%) saying they won’t be confident in their personal finances when they learn the timing of getting vaccinated.

When asked how they will spend on groceries after the vaccine becomes widely available in the U.S., 64% of U.S. respondents said they will spend the same as they have, 21% said they will spend more and 15% said they will spend less.

When asked how they will spend on out-of-home dining after the vaccine becomes widely available in the U.S, more than two-fifths of U.S. respondents (41%) said they will spend the same as they have, and about the same proportion said they will spend more (24%) as those who said they will spend less (22%).

Another new survey, this one from First Insight, shows that 31% of American consumers are unsure about receiving or will not receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available, and those who plan to get vaccinated will not be rushing back in-store. Forty percent of consumers say they will shop for apparel in-store either less or the same amount after being vaccinated, a theme that is reflected across in-store visits for footwear (44%), accessories (43%), beauty products (45%), luxury items (41%) and electronics (43%). 

“Clearly, the vaccine is not the silver bullet that is going to bring retail back from the brink,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “Our latest research shows that even with a vaccine, people will still be afraid to go in-store, and fully prepared to cut back on spending if the nation returns to another lockdown. It’s time for retailers to create better connections with consumers by targeting them with the right marketing messages, and bringing them the right product assortment, pricing and experiences that will entice them to spend both in-store as well as online. First Insight has empowered some of the world’s largest brands with Voice of Customer insights to help them understand their consumers better and build relationships and experiences that can reinforce safety, strengthen loyalty and increase sales in this difficult environment.”

According to Nielsen, wide availability of the vaccine will give some consumers confidence to increase their spending levels — for example, 16% expect to spend more on groceries, compared with 12% who will spend less and the vast majority who will spend the same. Yet, to date, 72% of consumers have been consciously watching what they now spend because of the impact of COVID-19, suggesting significant ground to make up in reversing consumer habits and attitudes as the world embarks on achieving herd immunity.

“The conversation surrounding the vaccine has been dominated by logistics: drug administration approvals, the speed of production rates, countries vying to secure enough doses to vaccinate their populations, and most recently concerns around scaling and speeding up the rollout in countries around the world,” said Scott McKenzie, global intelligence leader, NielsenIQ. “Confidence levels around the vaccines and the desire to take the vaccines certainly may change as countries begin more concerted rollouts and deliver education campaigns around the vaccines. But clear signals indicate that the arrival of vaccines won’t automatically flip a switch to put the world back on its pre-COVID path.”

Conducted in Dec. 2020, NielsenIQ’s Customized Intelligence Business Unit surveyed more than 11,000 consumers across 15 countries, including Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK and U.S.

First Insight’s findings were based on data revealed as part of First Insight’s ongoing series of consumer sentiment studies entitled, “The Impact of Coronavirus on Consumer Purchase Decisions and Behaviors.” Now publishing the ninth study in the series, the company has been tracking consumer data since Feb. 28, 2020. The findings are based on the results of U.S. consumer studies of targeted samples of more than 1,000 respondents, balanced by gender, geography and generation, and the latest survey was fielded on Jan. 13, 2021. It was completed through proprietary sample sources amongst panels who participate in online surveys.