Consumers Expect Their Spending Habits to Change After the Pandemic

Consumers Expect Their Spending Habits to Change After the Pandemic

These trends reflect shifting consumer priorities amid the reopening of the US economy
millennial couple vacationing at lake side resort

With local economies reopening, Americans are understandably excited to return to a semblance of their normal life. However, the coronavirus pandemic has left a lasting impact on consumers and their purchasing habits.

In the first of a series of surveys from L.E.K. Consulting, the global management consulting firm took a deep dive into how consumer priorities are shifting as the country reaches the late stage of the pandemic — and what they're spending their money on as a result.

Vaccines and stimulus checks play large part in consumer spending habits

A successful full reopening of the American economy will largely rely on reaching herd immunity. However, L.E.K.'s findings show that about 10% of respondents plan on never getting the vaccine while 11% are still unsure about whether they'd get it. On the other hand, these numbers suggest that more than 80% of Americans who plan on getting vaccinated have already taken steps to do so.

L.E.K. Consulting also discovered that, over the past year, 63% of Americans have taken their economic impact payments (also known as stimulus checks) and used them to improve their finances. Specifically, it found that:

  • 43% will put them toward their savings
  • 20% will use them to pay down debt

Another 2 in 10 said they would use their stimulus checks for essential monthly expenses. Meanwhile, 8% of respondents plan to use the money for discretionary purposes — such as apparel, footwear, accessories and dining out.

What Americans plan on spending their money on post-pandemic

After a year spent at home, L.E.K.'s survey results indicate that Americans are looking forward to a change in their surroundings as well. For instance, it showed that many plan on taking 6% longer and more expensive vacations in the months ahead. Younger travelers are going the extra mile, as 14% of millennial and Gen Z respondents plan on taking more trips and spending 7% more in the process.

Other top travel-related changes noted in L.E.K.'s report include:

  • 29% of respondents that expect to drive to their destination rather than flying or taking other methods of transportation
  • 26% of respondents that will seek out travel activities allowing for greater social distancing after COVID-19 is contained
  • 21% of respondents that gained interest in new and different vacation activities they would not have sought out before the pandemic

At the same time, Americans are now less likely to spend much less money on ride-sharing services, dining out and out-of-home entertainment (like movies, concerts and sporting events) — and little wonder too, as prices for nearly everything have gone up in recent months.

Of course, the at-home habits of many Americans have changed, too. The survey found that after the pandemic:

  • 80% will get their groceries in-store (versus the 73% who did so during the pandemic)
  • 20% will buy groceries online, either shipped home or picked up from the store (versus the 27% who did so during the pandemic)

Some consumers will keep cooking most of their meals at home. L.E.K. revealed that, in contrast to the 17% who expect to cook less often after the pandemic, 28% see more home-cooked meals in their post-pandemic future.

Others will continue the habits picked up during the COVID-19 crisis that sustained their health and well-being. L.E.K.'s report found, for example, that consumers plan to spend more time visiting friends and family, spending time outside and going to the gym. And with the adoption of an estimated 9 million cats and dogs over the past year, some of these changes will last years after the pandemic.

Methodology: L.E.K. Consulting conducted a survey from April 21-23, 2021 of about 1,000 US consumers who together make up a demographically representative sample of the general population.