Americans Grow More Anxious About Leisure Activities as Pandemic Drags On

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Standing in line to grab a greasy cinnamon pretzel and nachos before catching an action flick. Powering through a stationary bike class in a dark room with clubby neon strobe lights. Admiring kooky sculptures at the modern art museum. Feeling the FOMO yet?

When global data intelligence company Morning Consult first began tracking consumer comfort levels during lockdown in late April, it seemed that adults in the United States were growing more confident about returning to the leisure activities that we took for granted before the pandemic. By mid-June, consumers’ comfort levels with diversions were on the up-and-up.

The latest polling, however, suggests that as of mid-August, the public’s attitudes over indulging in social pastimes have started to take a turn for the worse, dipping slightly after weeks of not budging. What’s to blame? Most likely the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases, which began to rise again throughout the country in late June, causing consumers to, once again, shy away from pastimes.

Per Morning Consult reporter Alyssa Meyers, this may be a “warning sign for many consumer-facing brands hoping that consumer habits would return to prepandemic normalcy over the summer.”

While overall comfort levels among Americans remain well beneath 50%, there are noticeable differences when looking at political party affiliation and different generations.

On average, Republicans are more than twice as likely to feel safe when participating in social pastimes; 48% of Republicans, for example, are more inclined to go out to eat compared to 21% of Democrats. Similar margins exist when calculating comfort levels with going on vacation (Republicans 43% vs. Democrats 14%), to the gym (25% vs. 10%) and amusement parks (27% vs. 6%).

By mid-August, Meyers noted, the generational gap between millennials and baby boomers had begun to close (with millennials reporting dips in comfort levels). Nevertheless, millennials appear to feel significantly safer in certain scenarios compared to boomers, such as shopping at a mall (30% vs. 24%), going to the movies (22% vs. 13%) and going to a concert (17% vs. 9%).

Accounting for all of the tracking done between April 7 and Aug. 17, the majority of Americans polled reported that it would take more than six months for them to feel comfortable participating in all leisure activities except for going out to eat, which had more respondents comfortable starting to dine out next month (30%) compared to those opting to wait half a year (29%).

It isn’t all gloom and doom for consumer-facing brands, though.

According to walk-through marketing software firm Zenreach, no industry is projected to reach normal foot traffic patterns in 2020. Still, some recreational activities—such as retail shopping, restaurant dining, bar-hopping and club-crawling—may have a chance at bouncing back at least more than halfway by the end of the year.

Insights from Zenreach show that on July 30, national retail traffic was at 77% of normal compared to last year, restaurant traffic was at 42.1%, and bar and nightclub traffic was at 40.7%. By Dec. 31, Zenreach forecasts 2020’s national traffic numbers to decrease to 65% of normal for retail, but jump to 55% of normal for restaurants and 50% of normal for bars and nightclubs.

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