Consumer safety perceptions shaken by Omicron, but financial sentiment steady

The Covid-19 Omicron wave has reduced the safety perceptions of US consumers, according to a monthly report Consumer Tracker report from Deloitte. The February 1 survey found that consumer confidence has remained relatively unchanged from pre-Omicron wave levels, however.

In the US, the Omicron wave has caused safety perceptions of numerous activities to drop significantly. The proportion of Americans who feel safe flying dropped from 48% in November 2021 to 42% in December, and remained flat at 43% in February. The percent of Americans who felt safe sending their children to school fell from 40% in November to 33% in December.

Renewed safety concerns impacted purchasing behavior, with the percentage of US consumers spending more on goods (versus experiences) rising from 19% in September to 41% in February. Those planning to take a domestic flight for leisure travel in the next three months dropped from 43% in September to 36% in February, while the number dropped from 30% to 21% in the international category. The percent of consumers expecting to travel for business in the next three months dropped from 24% in September to 16% in February.

Omicron also a delivered a speedbump for returns-to-office. Throughout the fall, Americans who said they were able to work remotely fell from 63% to 51%, with the figure rebounding slightly to 54% in December.

Demand for vehicles, meanwhile, weakened since September. The percentage of US consumers planning to buy a vehicle in the next six months fell from 38% in September to 32% in February.

In contrast to previous Covid waves, however, Omicron has failed to shake consumer confidence. Americans plan to spend an average of $4,714 per household in February, with one-third of their budgets slated for discretionary spending such as recreation, restaurants, electronics, and leisure travel. These figures have remained steady since October.

Planned spending intent

Meanwhile, roughly 6 in 10 Americans are optimistic their financial situation will improve within three years, a figure that has been stable since September.

The proportion of US consumers worried about their level of savings (53%) and credit card debt (42%) has remained relatively unchanged (and high) since September.

Most Americans are still worried about inflation, with the proportion of consumers concerned that prices for everyday purchases are going up increasing from 72% in September to 78% in February.

“While safety perceptions have again declined amid a rise in Omicron cases, consumer confidence remains unshaken,” said Anthony Waelter, US consumer industry leader at Deloitte. “Overall discretionary spending intentions among US consumers remains steady. People have seen this movie before. And I think this speaks to a growing resilience to the pandemic’s ongoing ebb and flow.”

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