Nearly Half of Consumers Expect Spending to Return to Normal Within 6 Months

A quarter think 3 to 6 months will be the sweet spot
A woman grocery shopping wearing a mask

Shopping has not been business as usual in recent months. Some stores have closed because they weren’t deemed essential businesses, while others have seen business decline as consumers deal with reduced income due to the coronavirus crisis. But a new survey suggests that some consumers are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.

Data analysis firm Luth Research has tracked consumer buying patterns since the middle of March to see how those patterns are evolving. The firm’s latest survey reveals that most consumers believe normal spending will resume in a few months as the coronavirus outbreak begins to subside.

Timelines to ‘normal’ vary

The survey found that 25% of respondents believe the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States will start to subside in one to three months, and 24% believe it will take three to six months. Meanwhile, 16%, predict it will take six to nine months.

Many believe spending will return to normal during that time frame as well. The largest percentage of survey respondents — 25% — expect it to be three to six months before consumer spending returns to normal. That was followed by:

  • 21%, who said one to three months
  • 14%, who said 12 months or longer
  • 12%, who said six to nine months

While only 11% believed spending would get back to normal in 30 days or less, that was slightly higher than the 8% who thought that in the survey fielded the week prior.

Many consumers are anxious to return to their routines from before the pandemic, which may explain why some groups were more optimistic about spending levels returning to normal than others. Consumers who live in the South, and those with household incomes between $50,000 and $100,000 were more likely to believe normal spending would return within three months. On the other hand, those under the age of 35 were more likely to think normal spending would resume in six months.

Women and consumers with household incomes below $50,000 were more likely to be uncertain about when spending would normalize.

Some industries more affected by changes in spending than others

When it comes to how consumers are currently spending their money, the survey found that spending is higher than normal in some categories and lower than usual in others.

More than half of respondents — 57% — have been spending more than they typically do on groceries. Additionally, 31% have spent more on digital purchases of movies and television shows, and 29% have spent more on streaming services than they typically would. On the flip side, 56% reported spending less on car-related expenses, 51% on clothing and accessories, and 48% on beauty.

Spending on travel is also down, with 69% of consumers putting off leisure travel and 26% saying no to business travel. Also, 40% of respondents said they are putting off making any major purchases that cost more than $1,000 for right now.

Already, consumers are starting to daydream about where they may spend their money when things start to normalize. While some consumers have expressed concern about returning to brick-and-mortar businesses, 60% said they are most looking forward to going to a restaurant or bar, and 52% are most excited to visit a personal care provider, such as a barber or hair salon.

Methodology: Luth Research surveyed 381 consumers on April 29. The survey was the seventh in a weekly series that began on March 16.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.