Frustration rises as COVID persists

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It’s been more than nine months since the arrival of vaccines that were supposed to put a stop to the pandemic, allow frustrated consumers to start traveling and eating in restaurants again, and spark an economic boom.

But not everyone is getting vaccinated, the virus is mutating and sticking around, the economic picture is mixed, and consumers are still frustrated.

Very frustrated, according to the latest survey by the global customer data science firm dunnhumby, which found that consumer confidence in the United States had fallen to a pandemic era low. People are unhappy with how the government is handling the pandemic, and they’re not thrilled with some retailers’ performance either.

The eighth wave of the dunnhumby Consumer Pulse Survey found that 64% of U.S. consumers said grocery stores are not doing a good job with COVID-19, down from February when 50% of respondents reported that grocers were doing a good job. And 83% reported that the government isn’t doing a good job either, marking the lowest point of confidence in the government’s handling of the crisis.

While some consumers are still worried about the virus, many more are worried about the state of the economy and of their personal finances.

“After living with the pandemic for 20 months, consumers are now twice as concerned about their personal finances as they are about COVID itself,” said Grant Steadman, president for North America at dunnhumby. “With inflation persisting, and government stimulus phased out, the majority of shoppers are now looking for greater value. Retailers who are perceived as offering more value, and respond to their customers’ increasing need for this, will earn the loyalty of the new customers they gained during the early phases of the ­pandemic.”

The dunnhumby study is not the only one that points to consumer concerns. Oracle said its data suggests that supply chain disruptions related to the pandemic are a source of stress for Americans — 77% say the rise of the Delta variant is increasing their supply chain concerns, 92% believe more supply chain disruptions are coming, and 66% are scared that they will never end. And 80% of Americans say that delays and shortages could cause them to cut ties with favorite brands.

The news is not entirely bad. The survey by dunnhumby found shopping trips and restaurant patronage returning to pre-pandemic levels. And most forecasts suggest a merry holiday season for retailers, with Deloitte predicting that sales are likely to increase by 7% to 9%.

But the frustration remains. Many retailers and consumers are no longer worried about what the “new normal” will look like. For them, any normal will do.



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