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COVID-19 Fight: Survey highlights changing habits, needed comfort

At least temporarily, the response to COVID-19 is altering America’s social fabric: teleworking, social distancing, and the shift of education from public schools to the privacy of living rooms and kitchen tables is the strange, new normal.

To better understand the effects of the pandemic on consumer habits and attitudes, Cary, NC-based Cotton Inc. polled 500 U.S. consumers. The responses are largely unsurprising: the majority of consumers are very concerned; some are spending more time shopping online; paying more attention to the news; spending more time on social media; and there is an increased interest in comfort, from food to apparel.

Here’s what they found:

Consumers are concerned

According to the survey, 66% of consumers said they are “very afraid these days,” with more women (72%) than men (57%) expressing fear. Personal concern increased with age, with a majority of consumers forty-five years and older saying they are very concerned with the current pandemic (56%), followed by those 25 – 44 (40%) and 14 – 24 (18%).

Comfort helps consumers cope

As a result of the crisis, 71% of consumers say that they are watching more television; 67.2% say they are consuming more news; 62.8% claim they are wearing comfortable clothes more often; and 52.4% say that they eating more comfort food/snacks.

Consumer spending reactions vary

According to survey responses: 35.8% of consumers are spending more or significantly more money than they were before the crisis; roughly 30% of consumers (30.4%) say they are spending about the same amount of money; and slightly more than one-third of respondents (33.9%) claim to be spending less.

Online shopping time remains steady

When asked whether they were spending more, less, or about the same amount of time shopping online, most consumers (46.1%) stated their online shopping was about the same as before the crisis; nearly 32% claimed they were shopping more online; and 14.5% responded they were shopping less. Among those consumers shopping less online, 61.1% cited concerns about their personal economies as the motivation.

Online shopping felt “safer” to 58.9% of respondents, with 48.1% citing the closing of brick-and-mortar outlets as the reason for increased online shipping. Beyond practicality, 46.2% of consumers cited more free time as a reason for increased online shopping, and more than half (56.3%) of respondents cited that online shopping was “fun” or something to do.

Consumers focus on staples during crisis

Consumer responses reveal that more money is being allocated to groceries (57%); household supplies such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies (47.6%); online services (26%); and local food delivery services (26%).